In Sanskrit the ancient religious and classical literary language of India, the word Tantra can be likened to such concepts as “capacity for expansion” and “that which goes on expanding”. Tantra is the "expansive", all encompassing Reality revealed by immutable wisdom. As such it stands for "continuum", the seamless whole that comprises both transcendence and immanence, Reality and reality, Being and becoming, Consciousness and mental consciousness, Infinity and finitude, Spirit and matter. The tantric concept of Oneness or non-duality is reflected in many other later teachings like the Vedanta and Buddhist teachings.
Tantra -like ideas and practices can be found in traditions and teachings reaching as far back as 3,000 BC, which makes Tantra one of the oldest surviving movements. However as a distinct and fully fledges movement it is traced back to the middle of the first millenium BC.
The Sanskrit word for Bliss
The figure of Shiva and Shakti entwined in the yub-yum (mother-father) position often is interpreted by the Neo-Tantrics in the West as a sexual discipline promising pleasure beyond all expectation, mostly in the form of prolonged or multiple orgasms. When they lose themselves in the arms of their lover, they experience at least a semblance of the ego-transcending consciousness of the Tantric adept. The goal of Tantric Yoga is not bodily orgasm, but perpetual Bliss far beyond anything the human nervous system is capable of producing. Shiva is the embodiment of the male principle, and Shakti the personification of the female principle. Their union is the symbolic representation of ONE-ness, the realisation that both are an aspect of the Singularity, the Total Consciousness often referred to as Brahman. The Absolute ONE without beginning or end.
Bliss beyond Pleasure
The ordinary person constantly seeks to maximise pleasure and minimize pain. This hunt for pleasure or gratification of the senses is a typical by-product of spiritual ignorance (avidya) and is regarded as the primary source of pain. The Tantras view is that pleasure is a manifestation of the ultimate bliss (ananda), which is an inalienable part of our true nature. Our search for pleasure is the quest for the bliss of the Self (atman). Physical pleasure is frustratingly temporary, and the pursuit of recapturing these moments again and again can enslave us. Tantra seeks to expand into daily life those sacred moments in which we are in touch with a larger truth, a greater sense of being, just as it endeavours to expand ordinary moments of pleasure to the point where they reveal their true face, which is bliss.
The Tri-Pura-Rahasya, an outstanding scripture of the Shri-Vidya tradition of South India, acknowledges that we all at least intermittently experience our true, blissful nature. It speaks of momentary ecstasies (kshana-samadhi), in which the Self shines through into our consciousness – Tantric exercises teach us to capture those moments. Instants that reveal the Self are the short intervals between waking and sleeping and between one perception and the next, or one thought and the next, or at the height of terror or extreme anger. These fleeting ecstasies are instances of spontaneous ecstasy or sahaja-samadhi, which is open-eyed ecstasy in which nirvana is recognised in samsara, or at which point both these concepts are transcended.
I regard the teachings of Daniel Odier as the only ones where I found instant resonance. A moment of recognition of everything I instinctively knew as truth. As such I dont have a guru, and I do not follow any particular school or path.
Training with Daniel Odier is not like any other. There is no syllabus, everything arises out of the moment of spontaneity.
The Tantric Shivaist Teachings from Kashmir according to the Kaula tradition and the Spanda and Pratyabhijna schools.
by Daniel Odier
translation by Caroline Preller
Tantra - the expansive way.
The word "Tantra" comes from the root "tan" which means wide-ranging, whole. It also evokes the weave of a fabric. This mystical path has deeply influenced Buddhism and Hinduism, whilst retaining the characteristics of Shaivism.
Passed down via numerous lineages, some of which originated in the Indus valley five or six thousand years ago, Tantra is a non-dualistic path which reached its height between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries, in the Kingdom of Oddyana , in neighbouring Kashmir, and in Assam, at the opposite end of the Himalayan chain. In the eighth century, Padmasambhava, who came from Oddyana, introduced Tantra to Tibet, at the same time as it was spreading throughout India, Nepal, China, Japan and Indonesia.
My master, the Kashmirian yogi Lalita Devi, belongs to the Kaula school (which is the absolute path, viewing the follower's body as a microcosm) as well as the Tantric lineage of Pratyabhijna, which, in conjunction with the Spanda lineage, represents Tantra in its barest form. It refers directly to our original essence. Pratyabijna means "spontaneous recognition" and Spanda means "vibration, inner resonance", which emerges once a follower identifies himself with the universe.
According to the Vijnanabhairava Tantra, the earliest text on yoga which has been discovered, the work of Kashmirian yoga is to spontaneously recognise our absolute, divine essence. This is experienced in the body as inner vibrations of non- duality. This is the path I follow and teach, and it is also known as Sahajiya, or the path of spontaneous awakening. The tantric quest totally revolves around the idea that there is nothing to add or take away from one's being as it already contains its absolute essence. Existing beyond the realms of religious dogma, belief systems, and moral precepts, it is therefore a supreme form of lay asceticism, entirely suited to the reality of everyday life. It is a feminine path which embraces all living beings and fully recognises the power of woman. It is a path which leads to the original source, to the embryonic state of being which encompasses the whole.
Abhinavagupta, the great tenth century tantric philosopher from Kashmir , gives this beautiful definition of the absolute path in one of his poems; "Straight away, remove yourself from the field of spiritual progression , stay away from contemplation and skillful discourse, do not do research or meditate on the divinities, and stop concentrating and reciting textbooks! Tell me, what is the absolute nature of reality which allows no room for doubt? Listen carefully! Stop holding on to this or that, inhabit your true absolute nature, and peacefully enjoy the essence of what it is to be alive!" Like the other tantric masters of the Kula tradition, Abhinavagupta's approach is to reveal the teachings by starting with the absolute path, or the "path without a path" (anupaya) in order to then unveil the three traditional paths. Each follower can then access the teachings at the highest point at which he is capable.
- The path without a path (anupaya)
"When the follower is touched by a divine grace, and, having heard the words of his master only once, he is able to perceive the absolute nature of reality by himself, he becomes one with Shiva independently of all linear progression. This being, having been instantly liberated, has no set practices to follow, as everything is the expression of the "I am" of total presence.
- The divine path of immediate absorption into Shiva/Shakti (sambhavopaya)
If one cannot penetrate the absolute nature of reality straight away, certain exceptional people may be touched by a divine freedom which rapidly enables them to identify with Shiva/Shakti. It's the path of pure desire, accessible to those whose heart has opened. This heroic figure is immediately thrust into the non-dualistic universe and is never again plagued by confusion. This is the path of spontaneous and definitive awakening, that nothing will tarnish. The tantrika exists in continuous states of alertness and clarity. He no longer differentiates between subject and object. Pure, vibrating consciousness is left, in which mental patterns , shapes and all sense of object separation appear and dissolve. It is the simple, essential truth of divine love. The person thus freed, exists in a relaxed state of total awareness, immersed in the divine.
- The path of the energy of intuitive reason (saktopaya)
When dualistic thinking is abandoned, due to a direct initiation by the goddesses or through rapid understanding of the master's teachings and sacred texts, the Tantrist "loses the taste for dualistic thinking". This is his intuitive reason at work. This path goes beyond the various forms of yoga and exercises which are designed to affirm the yogi's non-dualistic perception. This follower sees everything as manifestation of Shiva/Shakti. Everything is consciousness. Skillful means are linked to all things known, they do not reveal consciousness. "Everything which is prescribed or prohibited cannot be used to enter or obstruct the path of supreme reality." Says Abhinavagupta. This yogi realises that he is not bound by karmic actions, that no innate impurity or dependence exists, and that nothing nor nobody can deprive him of awareness. "Thus, imbued with a sense of the self as absolute awareness he embodies the divine." The path through individual practice (anavopaya) Here, access to the path is attained through different types of yoga: meditation, visualisations, and practices as taught in the vijnanabhairava Tantra. The follower is gradually freed from non-dualistic perception, from inner blocks which prevent the full consciousness from flourishing. Repetitive patterns of behaviour are abandoned, and fear, terror and feelings of isolation recede. Little by little the ego relaxes its grip, a continuous presence is developed, full consciousness emerges and the non-differentiation of tantric-subject and universe-object prepares the yogi for the path of intuitive reason.
These three paths are not successive states, as they each lead to awareness. The teachings are combined according to the successive needs of each individual. "On this path, free from illusion, love alone is divine. No yoga, no form of ascetism can lead to that."
For a detailed account of each of these paths, read: Abhinavagupta,Light on Tantra chapters 1 to 5 of Tantraloka translation and introduction by Andre Padoux and Liliane Silburn, Publications of the Institute of Indian Civilisation, Distribution by De Boccard, 11 rue de Medecis, 75006 Paris.
Three paths, three ways of meditating:
The first Tantric master I met was in 1967, the spiritual leader of the Nyingmapa School, the great Dzogchen master Dudjom Rinpoche. He lived in Kalimpong and visits to the area were restricted to three days, because of frontier problems with China. Dudjom Rinpoche taught me three very simple ways of meditating which correspond to the tantra of Kashmir and Oddyana, just as it was introduced into Tibet in the eighth century by Padmasambhava :
"Surround yourself comfortably with calm and silence, sit down with a straight back, completely relaxed, breathe normally, in a soft and gentle way, and place your attention on a state of absolute presence without letting your mind wander for the count of three. This is the natural state of the mind, which spontaneously remains in a state of non-distraction, non-production and non-meditation."
The heart meditation.
" If you are unable to enter this state straight away, concentrate on a bright red letter, placed in the centre of your heart, any size which feels right to you. Allow this image to be vividly present, without forcing it. Allow it to absorb all your attention.'
Concentration and calming the mind.
If this meditation is difficult, take a simple object like a stone or a piece of wood, place it in front of you, gently focus on the object without blinking, allow nothing else to take hold of your mind, and gradually become totally present in a natural and relaxed manner. Look at everything which occurs to you without holding on to it, and gradually you will become peaceful. Everything which rises up will subside of its own accord, without any forcing on your part. Soon you will not be able to leave this non-conceptual state, and you will no longer want to move. This is a sign that you are becoming more familiar with the state of becoming peaceful, and you will reach a state of spontaneity.
This teaching, given as it was to a complete novice, was vitally important to me, and I have since never come across anything as simple and as profound. Even now I practice and teach in this way.
When we meditate, we enter the deepest part of our being, which exists beyond any split between us and the absolute, and which remains untainted by our culture, our beliefs, our experience or any feelings of ego-separation. We discover a space and a wholeness within ourselves, which exist beyond all realms of differential thinking. We " remove the taste of dualistic thinking" as we re-enter our spirit's natural state.
What form does the practice take?
It is about emptying the mind of all clinging to fixed patterns, by granting the body its rightful place. …The body naturally takes to non-duality whereas the mind has difficulty even conceiving it. " The body receives sensory input at every turn, and is filled with diverse forms of temporal and spatial information. The body conceals the divine within it. He who penetrates the body's nature is liberated" Says Abhinavagupta.
We experience the moment in this non-thinking state of awareness, a direct awareness of reality which leads to a spontaneity. Ultimately is born a joy which is no longer dependent on external circumstance. In this manner we are liberated.
Sensual Awakening by Sarita
When we are flowing and alive in our sensuality, the whole world appears luminous and we have a smile on our lips for the people we meet. We move into a space of overflowing energy. Energy, by its very nature is delight. You may have had the experience of having had a really superb night of sex with a lover, and then becoming aware, of how the next day, you are as if floating on air. Your steps become buoyant, you feel abundant and generous, you want to kiss the world. The whole of nature appears to be sparkling and even normally mundane jobs become light and playful.
The fact that this happens at all simply proves that this state of being, this natural high, is available. Being naturally high is part of the body’s resources, which can be accessed at any time. This ‘high’ gets woken up by good sex, but is not dependent on sex in order to happen. Another example of this overflowing state of being is with children. Children, when very young are magnetically attractive, simply because they are on a natural high, in tune with existence and floating in a sea of love.
Still another example is that of animals. When you look into the eyes of a cat or dog you may see the quality of joy or peace, which awakens the same quality in you. Pets can teach us how to enter into a relaxed and easy state of being. As individuals, we can learn how to awaken our dormant sensual aliveness so that it becomes a constant bubbling up of joy and fulfillment. We can become orgasmic and in love with life on an ongoing basis. The way to activate this is to allow ourselves to be really sensual. Let orgasmic, sexual energy spread all over the body, and into each action of life. When watering the garden, become one with it. Dance with the trees swaying in the breeze. Become the warmth of the sun kissing the flowers. Become the bee, drinking nectar. Become the butterfly. Savour the smell of the rich earth. Fall in tune with all of nature and dance with it. When taking food, bring awareness to it. Sense the origin of this food. Feel the journey it has taken to reach your plate. Taste each bite. Sense how it moves into your body and how it is being digested and absorbed. Listen to your body as the food is taken in. Is your body happy and delighted with your choice or miserable? In this way we learn to love and respect the tremendous harmony of body functions and to treat the body with the utmost care. Your body will return this caring attitude by reverberating with pleasure, like a cat purring in the sun. When sitting silently anywhere, for example on a beach, or on a bus, just bring awareness to your breath. Let the breath activate pleasure all over the body. In a natural flowing state the simple act of breathing brings a constant inner massage which is very pleasurable. Breath is life, so within it is contained all the secrets of how to be fully vibrant, ecstatic.
We were born to dance. The body loves joyous exercise. The lymph flow in the body cannot move unless it is activated by physical activity. The best forms of physical activity are those which bring a lot of pleasure, such as walking in nature, swimming in the sea, dancing etc. Freeform dance is an easily accessible way to free inhibitions, open the flow of vital energy and enter into inner ecstasy. Give yourself the gift of joyous exercise and you will soon find that you are naturally orgasmic a great deal of the time.
Touch is an essential ingredient in the awakening of sensual pleasure. The skin is an organ in itself, and how you treat it will have a great impact on how you experience the world. Hugging and cuddling is one of the best ways to activate pleasure and well being. People can learn to hug more as a natural form of greeting others. The art of hugging is to really feel and be present with the person you are with. Breathe together for a few moments and really allow your whole body to be in contact with the other. People are very afraid of hugging because in many cultures it has sexual connotations. However, this is an attitude, which can easily change. It is actually a very natural and deeply needed expression in all phases of life.
The quality contained in orgasm, which is an ecstatic let go into a space beyond time and mind can be applied to everyday life as well. When you laugh a great belly laugh, it has an orgasmic quality in it. This totality of expression can be brought into many areas. Just try drinking a cup of tea in an orgasmic way. Dance naked under the full moon, making love with the moon and stars. Experiment with bringing that quality of celebrative and total let go into all kinds of areas of your life and discover how the world mirrors it back to you. For it is how you as an individual are inside, that is reflected back to you from the outside.
Sensitivity means both your response to stimulation of the senses, and a heightened awareness of yourself and others in personal relationships. When your sensitivity is awakened, your experience of life is enhanced in all dimensions. Through your senses you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste the world around you. And also through your senses you can enter into a subjective experience of happiness and orgasmic pleasure. If your senses become dull, you are more likely to become sad and depressed. As you enhance your sensitivity, you discover spontaneous delight, your inner and outer world sparkle with aliveness.
Each sense organ functions like a swing door. In one direction it opens to physical pleasure or pain, while in the other, it opens to an expansion of the soul and spiritual awareness. The more you expand your sensory awareness, the greater is your spiritual awakening.
In love play with or without your partner, focusing on the different senses can expand your capacity for sensual awakening, both physical and spiritual. In this way you enhance your total life experience to its maximum potential. Each sense can give pain or pleasure. Many people deaden their senses in response to traumatic experiences or conditioning that inspire fear of being truly alive.
The message from the body and soul is: Fulfilment is possible if we are willing to open up and expand our sensitivity on all levels. Our natural state of being is bliss. Allowing an expansion of sensory awareness will lead you slowly but surely toward a life where even a simple act such as breathing becomes ecstatic.
Excerpt from Sarita and Geho's book "Tantric Sex" Published by Gaia.