Sunday, October 11, 2009

Roots of the Path

In the beginning of ones spiritual journey reflection plays a key role, yet this reflective nature is largely destroyed. This happens because the subtle split is eradicated and one simply "IS" (what they truly are/the Ishta) rather then using awareness to reflect on itself. This just seems to happen as one moves on the path, and any former vigilance of attention just becomes a natural vigilance of Being (without effort or contrivance of awareness). A Korean Zen master has a pithy teaching which sums up the meditative process in two easy steps. The teaching is "Don't Know" and "Don't Check". "Don't Know" is the openness which allows the true essence to become clear, and "Don't Check" cuts the head off any self reflection involved. (In the Zen spirit, I am required to call the teacher a long winded fellow.) The same process is involved with the tantric work. In the beginning one has a "special" time that one gives attention to these qualities and maybe also brings the attention to bare through out the day, but one soon embodies the principles so fully that one is "That". This is why I believe so much in the commitment of just doing the work (without anything required outside of this), as everything else will naturally fall into place. Why try to act in the world according to the "will" of Ma or Shiva (or those who tell us what the will entails) when one can become that very "will"? This way, your whole life is "spiritual" and you can be eating chips while watching some crappy TV show, and it is still a spiritual endeavor. The Guru can show you this because if you get close enough, you'll see the Guru doing "mundane" things. Then you'll either doubt the Guru or understand.

I strongly believe that some measure of non-dual realization is important before embarking on the Tantric path. It is often forgotten that Tantra is considered the highest path, so there should be some "space" generated through previous contemplation and meditation. In the Tibetan Buddhist system, one often moves through the Hinayana and Mahayana before entering Vajrayana. Before entering the Vajrayana, one also has to go through an addition sadhana of purification. Ideally, there should be a similar progression (of concentration and meditation if not name) when approaching the Kaula based traditions. The Hinayana is marked by contemplations which makes one come into touch with deep sincerity and a firmness of determination. The Mahayana is marked by meditation/contemplation of non-duality ("emptiness") and compassion. On the flip side, Tantrics view matters in terms of energy, so the view is optimistic and regards what might be called attachments as potential sources of liberated energy. So one can bring many attachments (emotions, thoughts etc.) or afflictions to the path, and these can be used and transformed. It is best if there is the wisdom that understands this and the space given for this type of transformation already within the potential sadhak. This sort of transmutation of desire is of a very particular brand and is much different then the rubbish that seems to spring from the thoughts "hey, we're indulgent morons, so lets just fully embrace this fact, and call it tantra".

Having "good" roots before entering the Tantric path will allow one to move much more smoothly and understand the inner postures in the correct way. This means that the Tantric processes are in conjunction with ones life processes. This is the "art" of the Tantric path, and without this the endeavor (even if sincere) would be at the level of Bhakta. This is not to disparage the great tradition and potential of the Bhakta path, but for the Tantric path there cannot by "you" and "the divine" (or even you "trying" to become/internalize the divine). It must be one. When its One then one can be a bhakta if they like. With true non dual realization then one can split and not be sliced, and need not conform to "ideas" or semantic boxes about what non duality is/means (anybody who refuses to use a personal pronoun must have a tenuous grip on that wisdom). People often enquire about what they should do to prepare to move on the Tantric path. They often are doing some mantra or want some mantra, but this is usually not what is vital at that time. One should become extremely serious (for this the contemplation would be death, the cycle of suffering, and ones genuine opportunity) and one should become clear (for this the contemplation is the nature of "self" and/or the nature of Being). If these aspects (or contemplation) don't resonate with someone, then they are a fetishist and not fit for the work. If one isn't interested in Truth, Reality, and the energetic integrity of manifesting those inherent qualities, then I really don't understand what they would want in this path.

The turning around of the awareness or simply resting in undifferentiated awareness will create the "space" in the potential sadhak. This wisdom has been turned for people in various ways and the texts and teaching on the wisdom are plentiful. The good thing about the abundance of information is that it is available, but the bad aspect is that people become hardened to it. The difference between successful sadhaks and those who are always griping about how "that didn't work" etc., is the the good sadhak takes things to heart and dives into them one hundred percent. Take a teaching like "turn the awareness around and investigate the nature of the "I"" This is a classic advaita meditation, but what do you do with it. One type says, "yes,yes, one looks for the "I" thought and it is not present...I've heard this before, what else you got". The other type turns the attention fully on this and will investigate (and not stop) until they rip apart the fabric of space/time itself. Take the teaching on unconditional love and compassion. One type will say, "yes, yes, we should all love unconditionally and have compassion, this is a very beautiful know I am very loving." The other type will meditate on it so much that they become love itself and shine like the sun. So while everybody is waiting around for that "secret" teaching or most powerful mantra, the true sadhaks are living the secrets by taking up fully what is already available.

If the realization of ones true nature is not apparent, then one may not be able to do anything about it directly (as any contrived "force" may only perpetuate ego). What one can do is relax,open, and surrender. One has to relax the grip on self (as personality), open to the possibility that there is "something" greater, and surrender the need to always know. Ones true nature is the freedom that people are looking for, and this is the cosmic joke. So one need not "become" anything other than what they are, so it is just a matter of removing the obstructions to this inherent wisdom. Wheather the essence of ones true nature is apparent or not, likely one will need to use the sword of wisdom (through subtle awareness) to deal with the parts of ones being that are contracted or in tension. So one can open and soften, then look for any "sticky" places. One only need to bring these contracted "spots" into the light of awareness and they will dissolve. There is usually no need to take an approach which investigates the "why's" of these places, as this usually just starts the cycle of thought and attachment. It will suffice to see them in the raw form (without any "story" attached to it), and this will pluck at the root. Just relax into being and surrender the tensions.

In Tantra, one no longer "surrenders" but take up the posture of victory. Also, one takes on a "tension" (of sort), so one cannot just wet noodle things on this path. The "tension" would be the energetic frequency/vibration that the sadhak embodies. If the energetic pathways are cleared of previous tensions, then one can better assimilate the "new" currents. This embodying is not a "becoming", but rather an expressing. The Ishta is not "other", but the enlightened form of your true nature. Some Tantrics will talk in terms of "other" (and some students may need to think in those terms), but this is a way of speaking and/or an expression of humility.

NOTE: I just sort of free styled this post, and will do so more on the blog page. I'll include more short essays (or just thoughts) and tell some stories etc. More formal articles will sometimes be included or some may just go to the website. Less formal (and less thought out) posts will allow me to post more often though.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jai Tara!

Tarapith is a unique place and the shamshan is viewed like a temple. Of course, there is the main temple to Tara outside the shamshan, but visitors often walk the cremation grounds with the same reverence. Tarapith has the feel of the sacred, but also there is a wild and ominous feel to the place. The people who frequent the shamshan are a mixed bag. Some people are just crude blowhards, some are sincere, and some are sincere and crude blowhards. The form of Bhairava with Ma Tara is Unmattananda (mad/crazy), so those who work with Ugra Ma take up some of those qualities. The shamshan is usually crowded, but it is such a unique and powerful place that one is compelled to overlooks this fact and still want to do works there. It is one of the few Tantric Pithas where Tantrics don't have to be overly coy. The lessons of Vaishtha are well regarded, and the lesson was that one approaches Tara from the left.

We had a crew that would go to Tarapith, for some trips the cast would be different, but always it included Jagu Baba, Baban (Kohinoor Roy), and me. We formed a nice Chakra and understood each other well. Baban and I would sometimes go during the day to do our works, but most of the activity took place at night. We would go sit directly on burn sites (cheetah) or on top of burials, but sometimes people would get pissed. As the night fell, we would make our way to the shamshan.

As one enters the shamshan (or from one of the ways to enter), there is a temple samadhi for the great Bam Dev (Bamakhepa). Every time I would pranam there and be hit with an almost tangible wave of shakti and blessing. The final bodies of the day would often be burning when we arrived, and we would sit near one of the main sites. Because of the traffic in the shamshan, one had to claim ones space. When the funeral party had left, the doms would collect the wood from the funeral pyres and then sell them to the likes of us.

The time at Tarapith was often an intense time with little sleep and much work. I would get into my own bhava there, and there were plenty of other characters to make things interesting. On one occasion when we sat for the night, we had a fire, and I was so concentrated that I saw nothing else. It was quite surprising to hear that many people (pilgrims) came to our site, as I didn't notice anybody. On another occasion, the three of us were sitting, when it came time to do the special puja (panchatattva). One fellow came out of the darkness and into our space. He presented us with a skull and quickly moved along. Jagud Baba Aghroi gave the kapala a whack with the fire tongs and it split into three parts. We each had a section and took Ma's prasad from this. I had this skull with me for a long time.

A lady came and sat at our fire once. She placed a fruit on the precipice of the fire pit and sat with her side facing the middle. I was told to offer her this and that, but the lady was ignoring me. Finally, we invoked the Goddess in her and offered her some food with great devotion, and she was forced to break her concentration and take it. The fruit that she placed stayed on the precipice without falling into the fire. Had it done so, then our works would have gone toward her aims, and she wanted somebody dead. This lady followed us around for several days, but we ignored her.

After one long night in the cremation grounds, we made our way to the main temple. There was already a crowd, so we got the attention of one of the temple priests. He wanted a nice chunk of money to take us to the main shrine. He wouldn't let us near him, as he was afraid to let us touch him. We haggled a bit, but the fellow was overly greedy. We went back to our room and sat Chakra for more works. Jagu Baba said, "I don't care about the temple, but I though Kaal should at least go in since he comes from so far". I was in a wild state as usually while there and said, "I don't care either, let Ma leave that temple and come here with us." After saying this, the presence of Tara filled the room in an amazing way. We were all moved by this gesture.

Finally, I did make it into the shrine. There is a special shrine that contains what many believe is the "real" image of Tara. It is a small stone, and the stone is naturally shaped like Ma holding Unmattananda as a child to her bosom. Some temple fellow came to our room to "negotiate" a visit. I have little use for temples because of the greedy morons who call themselves priest or pujaris. In the popular temples, one is not given any time to appreciate the atmosphere anyway. You are rushed in, extorted for money, and out you go. Sometimes one can find an old and powerful temple that people don't know about, and then it is useful to spend time and assimilate the energy of such a place.

My visit to the inner sanctum of Tarapith came after having been there a few day. I was spending most of my time in the shamshan and hadn't slept much. While in the shamshan and not sleeping, I was involved in what in conventional terms would be described as a bender. The visit was arranged so that we came in the early morning, and we came straight from the cremation grounds. At Tarapith, there is an echo through out the night from the different sadhaks. Someone yells, "Jai Tara", and anther sadhu yells it back. Every so often someone will break off a "TARAAAAAK" for Mahadeva. I had a famous "Jai Tara", which I wouldn't do when asked, but would yell when people were not expecting it. I would reach from the depths of silence and explode a fierce "Jai Tara", and people would jump and be afraid. So that night, I was really in the bhava, was covered in cremation ash, had a bottle I was carrying around etc. So in this condition, I went into the temple. On the way out, there was some fellow giving everyone a tilak. So I approach and the guy just looks at me. I growl at the poor man that he had better give me my tilak right away. Outside, I am still in my fierce mood, and I tell Baban that the priest didn't want to give me a tilak, and I'm ranting and raving. He started laughing and said, "brother, he was not trying to spite you, he didn't know where to put it." I didn't understand, so he took me to a reflective surface and said "look". I started to laugh now because I had forgotten that my whole face was covered in ash.

I liked to go to the Tarapith shamshan, and I would find a corner away from the fires and people. There I would do my works internally. When I would do one inner mudra in particular, I would get surrounded by subtle entities. The atmosphere becomes charged and a bit ominous, and the entities begin to whisper/hiss things to you. They try to shake you or make you loose confidence. It is not clear always exactly what any presence is. If you move close to power and/or perform forceful actions/inner mudras, then one has to deal with this sort of thing. Sometimes the forces can be of the mandala of your own Ishta, and these energies are protecting the integrity of the "space" by testing a sadhak (or just the presence of power may cause strange feelings and ego fear). Sometime it may be obstructing forces,entities looking to feed off the energy or just irritated that a forceful mudra "stirred" the subtle realm. Since it is often unclear, it is best to not interact and/or be moved. Just continue with the work and keep you eye on the Ultimate.

During a homa at Tarapith, it came time to throw a coin into the fire. This is the dakshina part of the ritual. So I took my coin and said, "Here Ma, you take this, you can have the money, I only care about Truth and freedom." Thus thinking, I tossed the coin in with some passion. I had a copper patra with me that I was using to drink from, and Jagu Baba noticed something in it. We looked, and there was a coin in it. Jagu Baba Aghori said it was a great sign and meant big things for me. From that point, I did not earn one cent for almost two years. The sankulp was for Truth and Freedom, so Ma gave me my change, and had a little laugh as well. I still have that patra and the coin:)

The Sage Vasishta performed the mantra of Tara with great vigor and dedicated himself fully to it. He performed great sadhanas, but was unsuccessful in his efforts. Frustrated at the lack of success, he cursed the Goddess and her Mantra, saying that nobody would succeed with it. Ma Tara appeared and explained that to be successful in her Vidya, one must use the left hand means (Mahachina methods). The Sage Vasishta succeeded in the work and felt bad for the curse he placed. He added a letter to Tara's bija, and blessed that bija saying that one will find quick success with it. Walking the path of Tara can be daunting because this is a impetuous and fickle energy, and there are blessings and curses. Sometimes if you want a blessing, you have to get a curse.

There are so many stories from Tarapith, but what stays with one is the powerful presence of Tara. At Tarapith, she is UgraTara, the fierce form, but is also an ocean of compassion. This rough aspect is in service to the needs of the sadhaks who approach. What is the greater expression of compassion when one is suffering, to calmly smile and say "hang in there" or to ruthlessly destroy the roots of affliction?

Jai Tara!