October 4, 2011

Can We Be Spiritual Without Inner Transformation? A Tantric Perspective.

Some on the spiritual path, especially some Buddhists and nondualists, say that we do not need to transform, do not need to change in order to be spiritual. According to Tantra, change is natural to the human self, the body-mind.

Change is life.

But also according to Tantra, there is a changeless Self, which never changes, to which the changing self wakes up, discovers, embraces, and is absorbed into through transformative expansion. Thus there is both transformation and no-transformation. Change and no-change.

According to Tantric Yoga the spiritual realm is the one changeless Being, or Brahman. This changeless realm, this Brahman, from which everything originates, from which everything is preserved and from within which everything dies and is destroyed, consists of two polarities: Shiva (Consciousness) and Shakti (Energy).

Shiva is that aspect of Brahman which is changeless, pure, subtle, the deep within, the deep inner world of all manifest beings, the deep inner space of the outer world, of matter, of the atomic world and beyond.

Shiva is pure Consciousness, pure Intelligence, from which even some quantum physicists now believe everything originates. Shiva is that oceanic space within, that cave in the cosmic heart, that which we experience while deep-diving the conscious and subconscious monkey-minds and enter the super-conscious mind of revelation and peace in our meditation.

In other words, in order to be awed by and to experience the inner thrill of Shiva Consciousness, we undergo a shift in awareness, an inner transformation with the help of Shakti energy, with the help of our will power, our emotions, and our sexual energy.

Because Shakti is pure Energy, that which creates, that which binds consciousness into form, into life, creativity and finally into death. By riding the energy of Shakti, the kundalini of transformation and creativity, we embrace Shiva, the Changeless.

“Tantra is the process of transforming one’s latent divinity into Supreme Divinity. A person who, irrespective of caste, creed or religion aspires for [such] spiritual expansion…is a Tantric.” —Anandamurti


 Tantric Yoga teaches us that if this unchanging reality, this Shiva is close to our heart, close to our inner mind in daily contemplation, in daily practice, then it is much easier to accept and welcome and challenge the turbulence of change—the pain of physical and mental suffering that also is an inevitable part of life. Hence, Tantra is to live in the balance of these two realms.

By meditating on that changeless Entity, that deep inner space of the cosmos, we embrace change, we accept change, we thrive on change in the form of Shakti, the Goddess of transformation, creativity, destruction, and death.

By meditating on that Changelss Entity, we associate with the wave of breath that is always connected to the deep spiritual ocean within. And we know, we realize, from experience, when we become less agitated, angry, or irritated, that both Shiva (the changeless) and Shakti (that which always changes), these twin archetypes, are always alive within us.

Contemplate life as infinite, undivided, ever present, ever active, until you realize yourself as one with it.” —Nisargadatta Maharaj

We know that when death strikes, when sickness strikes, that this change is inevitable, that it is Shakti’s nature to change form, to transform, but that Shiva always remains, formless and deeply whole within and beyond.

We know that beyond duality there is nonduality—that beyond both the deep subjective I of consciousness within and the objective yogic energy body that is healthy one day and sick the next, that beyond those polarities of our being there is only Brahman, only Consciousness.

So, what is Tantric yoga, Tantric meditation? To shift our attention toward Shiva, toward Purusha, toward Consciousness, by embracing the energy of Shakti, the energy of Prakriti, the energy of transformation and change.

Shiva in us never changes, but the Shakti in us always undergoes transformation. And it is our choice to use our Shakti energy wisely or to use it destructively.  In other words, we practice yoga, we meditate in order to bypass distraction and destruction and to experience wholeness and unity—the subtle, changeless aspects of our soul, of our spirit.

“Ecstatic devotion to the Divine Mother [Shakti] alternated with serene absorption in the ocean of Absolute Unity[Shiva]. He thus bridged the gulf between the personal and impersonal, the immanent and transcendent aspects of reality.” –Swami Nikhilananda describing the Tantric spirituality of Shri Ramakrishna

And here’s the secret, the beauty of this transformation: by becoming more like the changeless, we can constantly undergo change more gracefully. We embrace change as pain and suffering and joy more peacefully, more ego-lessly.

In other words, we do change, we do transform when we perform spiritual practice. Otherwise why bother to practice or to read and be moved by the great spiritual masterpieces, such as the Gita? Otherwise why do Buddhists practice tonglen, mindfulness, ethics if not to gracefully transform that in us which needs to undergo change in order to be awestruck by and perceive the changeless?

We do the practice, the asanas, the deep breathing, the counting of beads, the mantra repetition, to calm down the choppy winds of the mind, so that we may move into silence, flow toward the breath within the breath, toward the changeless nature of Spirit, toward Shiva, that unfathomable void that never undergoes any change.

We do this practice, sometimes painfully, and sometimes gracefully. But we do it to generate change. And we are transformed by this arousal of Shakti energy in our body and in our mind. In turn, we are changed by it, except that part of us, that inner witness, that Shiva, that great cosmic I, that nondual awareness which never undergoes any change; that quiet breath within our breath, that witnessing I in the quiet hurricane of our life.


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