Friday, March 12, 2010
Tantra and the Void
"Closing the doors and windows of my body, I seized the thief, prana, and shut him in. I bound him tightly inside the chamber of my heart, And lashed him hard with the whip om.
I pulled the reins of the steed of the mind; I compressed the life force circulating through the ten channels; Then, indeed, did the lunar particle (shashi-kalв) melt and dissolve, and the Void merged with the Void.
Concentrating on the om-sound, I made my body like blazing coal. Leaving behind the six crossroads, I travelled the path of Truth. And then I, Lalla, reached the Abode of Light."
This quote is from Lalla, a wandering female mystic from Kashmir in India. She was a saint and poetess who was married as a girl of 12, but later took sanyas (renunciation) in Kashmiri Shaivism, a tantric lineage. She was said to have wandered naked. In India, many of the gods are depicted nude, this is called "sky-clad", when the body is clad only in innocence, the sky, truth. The sky is also associated with the throat chakra, when we speak truth, we are liberated from constraints. Then we are naked, free.
She is describing a tantric yoga practice of using pranayama, bandhas and mantras to awaken kundalini. Kundalini is the feminine shakti energy that is symbolized as a sleeping snake at the base of the spine. Once it is awakened, it begins to climb upward through the spine to the crown of the head where she merges with the shiva, or masculine pole at the top of the spine. Their union there, at the thousand petalled lotus, is the Void, the center of all creation where space and time merge.
"I bound him tightly inside the chamber of my heart, And lashed him hard with the whip om", here she describes using mantra to focus the energies of the mind into the heart.
"I made my body like a blazing coal", here she is describing the tremendous heat that is released from the kundalini awakening. That is because the shakti is the positive pole (heat), and the shiva is the negative pole (cooling). Together, the two opposite poles attract and charge each other like a battery. From this energy the whole universe dances, being swallowed up and re-birthed from the Void.
"There was a day when One became two. When two become one again, what will you do?" -Jesus, Gospel of Thomas
One is the non-dual Void, before God created the world as a mirror to see itself. Two is the dual nature of the created world. "When two become one again", one explanation for this mystical saying is merging the solar and lunar channels within an individual. This inner marriage is the magical working of learning to weave and transverse the two sides of the brain. The left side of the brain experiences time (male), the right side of the brain experiences space (female).
Another explanation is the literal joining and union of two individuals representing the shiva and shakti. When male and female are joined, a seed of life is given. In the physical realm, this can create new human life. In the subtle realm, it can create new spiritual life.
The practices of tantra and yoga are real techniques and technologies to become more aware of the play of these energies. One of the things I love about tantra, is that it uses the romantic archetypes of the lovers, shiva and shakti, to describe the energies and forces of nature. In this way, life is seen as a lila, love-play between them, to be mastered and enjoyed, not a burden of illusion to be transcended.
This human life is a blessing. Eternity is in the present moment. God is in the world and people around you. Tantra is the acceptance of naked reality as the ground of illumination. Seek the simple things. The kingdom of heaven is given to the children.