World Coffee on Battery Park Ave in Downtown Asheville. There’s a line as usual. I breathe in the low hum of the interior space. Walking through it is like walking through an ocean of invisible “being,” almost pudding like, but conscious and breathing, watching, experiencing everyone involved through our thoughts, feelings and movements. I am struck by a resonate energy somewhere in the back of the cafe. I can’t see him, but I feel a man whose vibrating being is clear and focused. Once it is my turn in line, I catch the vibration of the harried barista and bring her into my deeper, relaxed breathing pattern. I allow the emanations of infinite cosmic consciousness that flow through me to envelop her. She looks up and smiles, exhales, relaxes. We just experienced a brief second of tantric union.
Tantric union is an ancient and sacred spiritual way of life, a deepening of connection to oneself, with each other and with the infinite consciousness of the universe.
Tantric literature is seemingly simple and sensually appealing. There is a plethora of print seducing us with descriptions of dynamic sexual exploits and weeklong orgasms. Yet there is a deeper meaning for those willing to look beyond the superficial.
When we look at the pyramid on the back of an American dollar bill we don’t go building pyramids in suburbia to be patriotic. We understand that it’s a symbol with a deeper meaning. Even though we all carry them around, live, work and die for them, not many of us question or even know the deeper meaning of that symbol.
There are many more examples, like this, of accepting what we are given at ‘face value’ without questioning the deeper meaning. We know Egyptians weren’t just carving kitty cats on granite pillars because they loved cats. We understand it’s a symbol with a deeper meaning. The hieroglyphic symbol of the cat was their “m.” “M” or “mau” is where we derive “meow.”
And we know the same is true for Aztec architecture, Medieval Art, Native American petroglyphs, and many other symbolic languages of ancient times.
So when viewing ancient language of tantric art, we would also assume this too has a deeper symbolic meaning, and that the pictures mean something beyond its face value.
Last year as the dust settled around Durbar Square after the Nepali earthquake, my anxiety wasn’t so much for the honored people of the land, but for the ancient temples and their irreplaceable wood-carved symbols. I have spent time kneeling transfixed before those altars allowing thousands of years of knowledge to penetrate my pores. Much like the more widely known erotic sculptures of Khajuraho, India, they are a bible of knowledge to the Tantric initiate.
There are 6,000 year old clay cuneiforms that predate every organized religion depicting tantric practice. Tantric practices of universal consciousness and god-reunion are an underground river that runs beneath the surface of every philosophy and religion there has ever been, even the comparatively new religions like Christianity and Islam, both of which are thousands of years younger than Eastern traditions.
Just as in all religions where there are exoteric, simple and pretty, crowd pleasing (controlling) stories, the deeper esoteric knowledge of powerful practices are for those only who are spiritually mature enough to accept responsibility for that knowledge. The true teaching of Tantra lies behind a veil of sometimes titillating imagery.
It is common knowledge that the stories and symbols of old, especially spiritual practices, aren’t to be taken literally, but are instruction for those who are ready and to confuse those who are not. It is said that knowledge comes not from the mind but from the heart. True knowledge takes passionate dedication.
Matthew 14:29 “Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!””
In all ancient literature water is a symbol for sexuality. Jesus, the man, was a symbol of higher consciousness. Higher consciousness has mastery over attachments and sexuality, and symbolically, Jesus overcame it. Peter, when focused on higher consciousness, walked over his desires and when diverted called out to his own higher consciousness to guide him.
Throughout time eternal the language and imagery of powerful spiritual practices like Tantra have been deliberately misleading. Those who are not willing to take on the responsibility of commitment will find themselves walking circles in the labyrinth self-justification. Deep in our soul we know the way, and when we become distracted or “err from our path” we feel unsatisfied. Here is where the two paths diverge: Those who try to satisfy themselves with the froth of surface seduction will never be nourished by deeper experiences.
I spent years elucidating on Gurdjieff’s tome, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. It is rife with made up words with hidden meanings and more metaphors than commas. After so much time trying to divine the meaning of his work, my teacher finally said to me, “It’s time to put the books down.”
What he was trying to help me understand is that it is easy to become lost in the labyrinth of content. It is easier still to become found through visceral experiences. When we look past the obvious metaphorical symbols of our own reflection and see the universal depth beneath the pond’s surface “a dawn breeze blows the veil from the face of God.” (Rumi).
Khajuraho and Durbar Square are more than brick and wooden places to gawk at.
If we can see passed our own reflection of the eroticism, the buildings themselves come alive with messages from the depths of time.
The shallow will see the erotic gestures as justification for mindless group sex.
The initiate, in a conscious state of unattached mind, will see the blueprint of their inner universe and awaken themselves as God. When we bring our attention inward we can feel it for ourselves. The language of images is designed to affect our biology and awaken our energy centers; to spark our senses and feel a certain way. Tantra reminds us that all things are energy, and that our primary work is energy work.
In electrical theory, the less resistance in a wire, the more easily it can carry energy.
When you cultivate equanimity through Tantra practice it creates a state of nonresistance. By continually lowering resistance to the sensations you are experiencing, you increase your energetic capacity. Your energy force becomes stronger.
To lower our resistance, a large aspect of Tantric practice teaches the sublimation of the ego. Identification with the ego, like neediness, fear and greed become blockages to our infinite energy flow. It is the activity of Tantra to observe these, accept them, open them, and ultimately to move though the identification that created these patterns.
As an example, years ago as a group exercise my teacher allowed us to scrape up a tile floor of Brooklyn Loft. It was awful work. While most of us scraped he would pick one of us at a time to rest in a comfortable chair and watch the others sweat. I saw myself resistant to the scraping. I saw myself feeling guilty just sitting there. Through the exercise of both working and observing I was shown my own outward consideration, an opportunity to understand how I spent my energy imagining what other people thought about me. Was I being properly respected? Did the others see me as special or lazy? Experientially, I learned how I was creating resistance in my energy capacity and how it affected every aspect of my life. By releasing the outward consideration and identification, sublimating the ego, I freed my energy flow and experienced a blossoming of energetic control.
Tantra, like no other path, brings enlightenment within reach. Our work is not “out there” somewhere or even secluded in a Himalayan monastery. In Tantra, everyday experiences like scraping a tile floor, making love, or making cookies are all paths to consciousness and transcendence. Whereas in Western dogma where the physical body, emotions and sensations are viewed as obstacles to our divine nature, Tantra uses human nature and human desire as the yellow brick road to the Divine itself.
In fact, just as Christianity was a rebellion against politicized Judaism and Buddhism was a rebellion against elitist Hinduism, so Tantra is, in its later development, a counter to Brahmanism’s biased austerity. In ancient India religious ritual, and so salvation, could only be performed by the elite and wealthy Brahmin caste. The cow herder, the prostitute and especially women were cow-patty out of luck. They were the opposite of “pure.”
The tantric practitioner then believed that it wasn’t impurity of caste but the Brahmin concepts like this, of elitist pride and inherited virtue, which were obstacles to spiritual fulfillment. This sentiment is mirrored in the religions that borrowed from Tantra later on. Hence, Matthew 19:24. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.”
In Tantra, we don’t ignore our “rich person,” eschewing our ego, we do not walk around our obstacles, we walk through them, process them as an alchemical process of transformation.
Medieval Alchemy Schools too borrowed from Tantra. The transmutation of “base” metals into “noble” ones is the tantric art of transforming the ego, developing the still earthly embodied, jīvan-mukti, to create of a divine body, divya-deham; from base to noble.
The symbology in Sanskrit alchemical texts include the manipulation of Mercury and Sulphur, which are symbolized as the semen and menstrual blood of the god Śiva and goddess Devī. Brahmins were forbidden to touch such the stuff. This is of course more conceived caste purity. So to sublimate these limiting beliefs (note: not the actions but the beliefs), the Tantrikas carved in the pillars are seen drinking both semen and blood.
But just because there’s a picture of it, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it. We aren’t building American pyramids and we aren’t drinking menstrual blood. It’s a metaphor. It is symbolic of sublimating the ego by lowering oneself to conceived impurity.
To sublimate his ego by lowering himself to conceived impurity, my honored teacher, who was a world renowned classical conductor and violin virtuoso, would dress in raggedy clothes and play for change in the NYC subways often being ignored and sometimes accepting coins in his stained violin case. No one seemed to notice that he played a Stradivarius. The inner friction from opposing ones validation-demanding ego causes the fire necessary for the alchemical process of transmuting energy vibration from base to noble. In other words, rubbing against the ego raises our vibration.
For instance, when I’m asked to do something “below” my perception of validated ego, I feel disrespected. I notice that I am feeling resistance to this requested action. I notice my blood pressure rising, my muscles tensing and I notice that I look around to see who sees me in this embarrassed state. I know I am not in repose or harmony.
Can I sublimate these feelings and sensations, lowering resistance and surrender into a state of equanimity?
This witnessing and inner work is what the statuary is asking of us. To understand, we must learn how to read the language of the sacred symbols.
It is known in the East that both the erotic scenes of the Hindu traditions and the Buddhist statuary of gods united in sexual bliss were meant to be viewed behind closed doors, away from the untrained ego and unlearned eye of the uninitiated. Seeing them and misinterpreting them would be more than misleading, but dangerous. Taken at “face value” they could lead the masses into years of diversion, half-truths and ego gratification. Even Tantra teachers have fallen prey to simple gratification by misinterpreting the Tantric ideas.
If one looks closes enough into the eyes of the Khajuraho carvings you won’t see the wide eyes and open mouths of sexual excitement. What you see is unattached, unmoved, yogic serenity.
All eight limbs of yoga are about non attachment, even to mental, emotional and physical discomfort …or pleasure.
Yoga, also borrowed from Tantra, is about developing reunion with the perfection of universal consciousness, seeing the entire cosmic play as perhaps fun but insignificant compared to the bliss of God.
The Ramayana says it best, though I paraphrase it here, “if I inherit the kingdom and sit upon the throne I will have days of joy and days of sadness. If I live an austere life on the forest floor I will have days of joy and days of sadness. It is the same.”
In the higher state of Tantric union, resting in a state of pure conscious bliss, there is equanimity to all outward experience. There is no resistance, no impulse for reaction. Motivation for action comes from our peaceful inner source. And this, all by itself, facilitates our union to our higher consciousness.
In all these temples the frenzy of eroticism covers the outside facade, just like our frenzy of need and satisfaction is our outside facade. Yet, welcomed into the inner sanctuary it is devoid of adornment. The inside of the temple where the initiate sojourns represents the peaceful internal state where this energy is directed and transmuted. So just like this, our facade covered in frantic neediness is the doorway to nonresistance, to the power of our infinite conscious cosmic energy.
“There are figures of gods and of various mythological beings that can be read like books, only not with the mind but with the emotions, provided they are sufficiently developed.” G.I. Gurdjieff.
Consciously created tantric temples, with mathematically calculated vibrations contained in the architecture will produce the exact emotional effect intended thousands of years ago. We, as energetic beings, are under certain vibrational laws and cannot withstand external influences. The exterior as with exoteric will have one intended effect and the interior experience as with the experience of esoteric practice will produce a completely different effect.
We are to read these statues, buildings and emotional/energetic effects like a language. But a language developed not for the mind but for the heart.
The first thing my teacher always told every new initiate is “Do not believe anything I say.” He demanded of us not to take anything at “face value” or blind faith, but to do the inner work to test any knew information to see if it was true for us. Sometimes it might take years for something to “become” true, for it takes impassioned dedication to develop a level of expansion. We learn the language of symbology directly through a teacher, but we then learn to understand the deeper meaning through self-study and meditation.
In sexual intercourse I can be just like the gesticulating yogis of Khajuraho. I enjoy the physical act while in spiritual equanimity of my infinite source. I did not arrive at this sexual superhero ability by practicing sex, but by practicing mediation. It has nothing to do with physicality, control, or special breathing. Tantra is about experiencing the world, even our passion, from a point of infinite cosmic consciousness.
Some look to the orgasmic union written about in new age “Tantric” books for the sensation of cosmic tranquility. In orgasm the mind is empty of thought and the ego is eradicated in the wash of pleasure. It is similar to the experience of meditation. But it’s not meditation. All too soon that moment is over. We are left empty and wanting more.
The true practitioner learns, by developing a higher level of spiritual expansion, that tantric union isn’t between two physical bodies, but with infinite cosmic consciousness. The true Tantric reaches this state of union, the infinite cosmic consciousness whether in silent meditation or in an argument; whether making love or making cookies, yet there is definitely an over emphasis on sexual gratification in the West in the name of spiritual practice.
I always like to say that Tantra is not sexual though sex can be one more aspect of tantric expansion. In the original texts, beyond the symbolism, there is nothing anywhere, not a single word about using sex as a tool for enlightenment, only perhaps our attachment to anything pleasurable. One of the five kleshas (obstacles) to union, Avidya is the condition of confusing the permanent, pure, blissful infinite Self with that which is impermanent attachment to objects of pleasure.
Tantra is the root for the Western word “tenent” or belief, etymologically it means to weave; Tan (expand) Tra (beyond). It is often used to connote a body of knowledge: i.e., “the Tantra of Sri-Chakras.” Yet more specifically it means the body of knowledge (practices) that expands ones experience beyond the material world, uniting with and channeling the energy of the infinite cosmic consciousness as our human experience.
Tantra is learning how to direct everything inward and direct everything from within. In other word Tantra is about moving our experience from the intellect to our ever opening heart, uniting the body with infinite cosmic consciousness and universal energy.
Dhyan drishti or inner sight is heightened powers of perception wherein one can even master physical materially. There are miraculous benefits to raising ones energy vibration. Through 30 years of passionate dedication of expansion I became a Tantric Energy Healer. I have developed the tantric ability to feel others’ vibratory dis-ease and change their resistance patterns back to energy patterns of nonresistance. Yet the true purpose of Tantra resides is Anasura (Highest-Path) practices for the good of all man-kind. There are Tantric Masters around the world that you’ll never hear or read about who shape the world we see. If I can do it, if they are doing it, you can do it too. It is only a matter of caring enough to learn the language.
Digging a little further into tantric language we can learn that, just as in all other ancient hieroglyphs, the placement of arms and legs, bodily positions and inversions are a symbolic alphabet the student must learn to read.
When I was with my own teacher way back in the 90’s, he instructed us not to share what we were reading, experiencing and learning. Why the secrecy?
“To know means to know all. Not to know all means not to know.” G.I. Gurdjieff.
It was simply this. We did not know “all,” yet. We could only see the angles that we were then experiencing. Like the three blind men separately experiencing the leg, the tail and the tusks of an elephant, thinking his truth is whole. There are so many other aspects needed to complete the picture. We would be leaving out aspects and so anything we said would be at least a partial lie. If we offered a partial lie to someone, not only would they then rely on a lie, but because they were not initiated in the precise language we used, they would misinterpret the lie even further. This is spiritual irresponsibility.
What I offer here is only the tail of the whole elephant, the rest is yours.
What I ask is only that on your Tantric path as a student or especially as a teacher, don’t rely on other peoples books. Be willing to leave behind the ego and intellect, take the time and effort to “know all” and “expand beyond” the froth and dive into the depths.
Word Coffee, still in line. There is what I can only call an echo of the future. The barely conscious woman behind me, whom I haven’t noticed yet, is about to drop her phone. I turn, push my hand through the pudding and lay it beneath its path, just as it slips out of her grasp. I hand it back to her with a smile. We just experienced a brief second of tantric union.
Elet has studied the practices of Tantra most of his life
with the great masters of the present age:
For ten years he apprenticed under Maestro Alexander Kahan, of the mystic lineage of G.I. Gurdjieff (Osho’s teacher) and Jean De Salzman (of the Tibetan Sacred Movements) training in consciousness exercises and meditation 3 times a day, every day, for ten years.
In a refugee camp in the India Himalayas, he was initiated by His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th DALAI LAMA, spiritual leader of Tibet, into the highly secretive esoteric Anasura (Highest-Path) Tantra Karachakra Pranayama (energy control) practices for the good of all man-kind.