Long before Yoga, there was Tantra, that some might even consider as the mother tradition of world spirituality. Tantra’s roots are primitive, sourced in the hunter-gatherer perid. In the middle ages, however, Tantra developed into quite a sophisticated tradition. In the past millennium, there have emerged many profound insights and powerful practices within the vast ocean of what may loosely be defined as “Tantra”.
Understandably, people are either frightened of Tantra, prejudiced about its methods and therefore ignorant of what it can offer us, spiritually. While there is a lot of questionable content and practices in Tantra, there is also much which is valuable. My passion is to share with my students the best and most useful methods. Fortunately, I have had fantastic guides and teachers, apart from being blessed with my unique gifts that serve this mission.
Tantra is essentially about intimacy with the divine mystery that cannot be seen or smelt or tasted. This invisible mystery, however, is present in all things, even though its exact nature often escapes our grasp. Tantra helps us develop the kind of perception that cultivates a knowing that, on the one hand, makes use of the senses, while, on the other hand, sees through them into something more profound. This knowledge is vidya, or, more appropriately, Sri Vidya, the kind that blesses us.
Tantra is essentially about perception, meaning the polishing or refining of the organs of knowledge, particularly of the inner, spiritual senses. My mentor, Bede Griffiths, often pointed out that our early ancestors, before humans became highly cognitive, perceived the world of nature with simplicity and transparency of mind that filled their hearts with awe and wonder, which is why they lived in a sacred world. Their limitation was that everything bled into everything else without any discernment.
In our present ego-mind state, there are heavy demands on our perception, an excessive differentiation that obscures the underlying unity of matter and consciousness. We need both integration and differentiation, as well as the third form of knowledge that transcends the two, which is the state of spiritual enlightenment. In this state, both unity and differentiation preserve.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, without our constant need to analyze, project, and associate, could well have perceived energy swirling about in the shapes of all things. Today, we need microscopes and telescopes to do this. For them, everything was alive, animated by a spirit presence. Once humans began to name everything, perception became more confined — names and ideas superimposed upon forms and shapes and energy. Language bound us together as cultures, allowing us to share our experiences. Paradoxically, as our vocabulary and grammar developed, language also estranged us from the depth and scope of those same experiences.
Tantra is a path that preserved ways of seeing and knowing that have been lost as a result of excessive thinking, analyzing, associating, and projecting while having experiences. The result is modes of perception that are hard to communicate with others, especially those who rely on words to validate their experience. In Tantra, it is knowing itself that proves experience. We know, and we know that we know. There is knowing that feels truthful in the very core of our being.
The most coveted type of Tantra is the type that does not rely on imagination to validate our experience. We cultivate modes of direct perception, direct knowing, and use our methods and skills to enhance our modes of perception. This vidya, or knowledge that is at the heart of the path of Sri vidya, the way of auspicious wisdom. Since it is hard to communicate such knowledge through words alone, and because the aspirant needs to deeply committed to the spiritual processes that develop such expertise in authentic ways, Tantra instituted a culture of secrecy around its methods.
Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” When people have not cultivated a particular type of mind and disposition, they will either disrespect what you are offering them in terms of your hard-won knowledge; or worse, they will attack you, the messenger.” In Tantra, some effort is necessary to cultivate methods of direct perception and more profound knowledge. Often, this does not come easily as we also have to counter habitual forms of knowing. Many people are not patient. Or they want things handed to them on a plate. How does one do this with experiences that are not ordinary? Hence, the secrecy.
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