How to Meditate, Interview – April 16, 2010
HTM: What do you find to be the most effective form of meditation?
Rahasya: From my own experience and from watching my students, it is clear that there are more and less effective methods available at distinct stages of awareness. Some techniques, in their niche of application are quite remarkable, but are quite useless in wrong timing or application. There is one technique though that I and most of my students have found indispensable—very useful indeed, over a wide range of application— The Heart Meditation of Atisha.
We find it useful from the moment that a student's path becomes painful. A tantric approach requires bravery and risk, so things can get very tough very quickly. At first, it eases general levels of pain and discomfort. An effective medicine that helps with the unavoidable hurts of living with courage (heartfulness). Later on, it becomes a valuable tool, a probe that can move swiftly through the layer of hurt which obscures truth.
Finally, it can become an exercise in compassion and give substance to one's spiritual willingness. Two days ago, I introduced a dear friend to it. This evening, last of a three week group, I taught it again. It is definitely the most useful and single most used technique in this school. One of the very first things I wrote for the web was about this venerable meditation. If you like, I could try to condense a description for inclusion in this answer.
HTM: I would like you to condense it for me if you don't mind. I think that this context might change how you convey it and also revisiting it allows it to refresh. There will be more spontaneity and the present in your response. I am also very curious about you having responded with "from the moment that a student's path becomes painful" as if it is a given that it will become painful. Also in regards to your words "unavoidable hurts of living with courage". This blog on meditation covers many approaches to meditation and so perhaps a brief (if that is possible) orientation on how Tantra meditation differs from others... what distinguishes it most.
Rahasya: Tantra claims to be the fastest of paths— faster because lessons are drawn from worldly involvement and sexuality. Lessons from these areas of life are intense and hard to take. A classical renunciant rejects these areas as too distracting or dangerous and prefers the slower, steadier approach of asceticism and/or the monastic life. Tantra is not easier because it is faster—quite the contrary. The lessons that existence has for a seeker are accelerated and enhanced, not smoothed or eased. Faster basically means rougher, harder and more impactful.
Californian Tantra tends to emphasize sexual power, bliss and merging. Certainly, a Tantrika's life has delights—great delights—true enough, as far as that goes, but not the area people tend to have problems with—Hence, my emphasis on this practice. A Tantrika of any sincere intent faces emotional shocks comparable with moving house, divorcing, losing friends and relatives to death … on a regular basis. A robust and deep emotional capacity is a requirement. This practice helps develop that capacity while easing the intensity of painful emotions in the meantime.
The Heart Meditation of Atisha (brief description):
This practice is most accessible when you are hurting—particularly emotional pain. Especially when it has been intense enough for long enough that you feel pain at the center of the sternum. The basic idea is to breathe hurt and suffering into your heart center and breathe out love, compassion and bliss in return. Sit comfortably, or lie down. It can help to touch the center of the chest to draw your attention to that area of the body, and the sensation of pain.
Close your eyes and get in touch with the pain, open to it and submit to the fact that you feel it. Breathe in, drawing the sensation of hurt directly into the heart center. Accept it and, as far as you can, welcome it. It can take a few inhalations, a lot of feeling and perhaps some tears before you feel you have managed to take the immediate hurt in. Be willing to be wounded by it.
When an inhalation has a feeling of completeness – that that particular hurt has been accepted and felt in its fullness – breathe out from your heart center. Repeat this cycle, emphasis on the inhalation to accept and allow whatever hurts to just hurt, as much as it needs to. Alternate to: Emphasis on the exhalation from the heart, which is most likely to be felt as warm, loving and giving.
It can happen that each inhalation brings in pain and hurt and each inhalation returns love, or it can take a few inhalations then a few exhalations in turn. Allow your own rhythm with it. When breathing hurt in, draw it from your heart at first. When that pain seems eased, draw hurt into your heart from your whole body. If you go long enough and take the feelings in willingly enough, you may come to feel that all current hurt in the body has been felt (and released as love on your out breath).
At this point, seldom before half an hour into the practice for a beginner, draw hurt, pain, all forms of suffering that your awareness can reach to. Just the general massed vibe of suffering from any cause or none. Breathe it into your heart center and breathe back love and compassion. An hour to two is usually the best timing. Marathon sessions, even through an entire night can happen too, especially in times of intense suffering and distress for you, personally, or for the planet at large.
This practice is attributed to Master Atisha who said: “As you breathe in, take in and accept all the sadness, pain, and negativity of the whole world, including yourself, and absorb it into your heart. As you breathe out, pour out all your joy and bliss; bless the whole of existence.”
There are safety instructions. This is a deceptively simple yet extremely powerful practice. If you have any weird health problems (particularly an intense pain in the sternum, feeling like physical damage) which start after you have been using this meditation, do check back here if perhaps you forgot (or, like me, willfully ignored) the rules at first sight.
Rule 1: Your own hurt first. Start with pain at the heart, then gradually outward through your body, accepting and feeling all current suffering. First you, thoroughly, before reaching out.
Rule 2: You may find the movement of energy in this meditation very palpable. Easy to direct and guide. Particularly if you have experience of martial arts, intuitive massage, Reiki, Magick, Chi-gung, Taoist or other practices which can activate/enable perception of subtle-body energies. Do Not. Do not personalize – do not direct where you draw hurt and suffering from. Do not direct it either. Just let the love return to existence, unconditionally.
If you break the rules and bring on the likely suffering, there is one medicine: This practice. Practiced with sincerity and honesty, pretty much daily for a month or so before improvement happens. Perhaps several months before the body feels it is back to normal.
HTM: This material is great and I want to use it as part of this interview, however these interviews I am conducting are particularly useful for readers because in each case those being interviewed are sharing personal experiences that will offer encouragement because they show specific examples of people meditating and getting results. What I would really like to do is get a bit of your own story, from how you got started in meditation in general and then how you gravitated toward this form, and perhaps an example of the experiential benefits. How did you get started meditating?
Rahasya: My first real taste of meditation happened when i was 14 years old, a couple of months into my time at an old-world Anglican (USA= Episcopalian) style boarding school in South Africa. I found a book on Buddhism, possibly by Suzuki, in the boarding house library. Intellectually, it appealed to my agnostic/atheistic inclinations. I attempted Zsa Zen sitting during the mandatory quiet time after lunch. It did not go well. It seemed to disturb the other fellows and got things thrown at me.
When I tried to explain what I was trying to do, things got worse. I was called a Satanist, which was at least a change from atheist and communist. The violence typical of all male environments happened, first with my fellows, then from authority. One freedom I had discovered from the military regimen of the place was running. Remarkably, a boy wearing running shoes and shorts was free to run as from the school grounds as he could.
Leaving the school grounds for any other reason required explanation and a record of good behavior to merit the privilege. One day after perhaps an hour's running, I came to a particularly beautiful spot, the source valley of a small stream, shaded by large trees. I stopped for a while to enjoy the place while i recovered from the run. I found a flat spot to sit, and although I judged my breathing to still be too fast, I tried the silent sitting thing again.
Beginner's luck … a deep satori occurred. Everything went timeless and still. I felt peace and a sense of connectedness that was lovely beyond belief and completely foreign to me. Cross country running (and, un-admitted, unmentioned, silent sitting) became my sport of choice, and although it was somewhat frowned upon, not being a team sport, it was tolerated. It would be seven years before I next felt anything as moving, as gorgeous as happened at that first attempt.
I now know that silent sitting is generally a pretty much useless practice for beginners. First, purging of the layers of anger and some work with layers of hurt is usually essential. I had not heard of Osho (then Bhagwan) at the time or of his methods of active meditation— but my habit then of run-then-sit was a workable approximation of what he was recommending to Westerners.
A few years after school, my enjoyment of motorcycles had limited my running abilities. I lived in a large city, and secluded, natural places were hard to find. I discovered alcohol and sex, and lost the habit of regular meditation. There was a commune of Osho's Sannyasins in Johannesburg in those years, and it was a great place to party. I dabbled in their meditation techniques. I particularly liked his Kundalini Meditation for the dramatic effect it had on my libido, which in truth needed no enhancement.
Around that community, I met a lovely young woman who was unusually powerful and aware in her sexuality. During a 14 year relationship, we had children, married and learned all we could of tantric practice from the Osho community and elsewhere. We took every group, workshop and retreat that was available and practiced Osho's purging, cathartic techniques. Our sex life was athletic, extreme and sometimes meditative. We explored techniques from most of Western eroticism as well as what we learned of Taoist and Tantric sexuality.
One retreat that I took (unusually) on my own was pivotal. Death and Dying was the cheery topic, presented by Sw. Veetman (https://www.leben-sterben.de/whoweare.htm). I still find what happened hard to define, but from that point on, meditation was a deep passion. For several years after that, I worked my way through hours of cathartic techniques a day, later on gentler, more traditional forms. Eventually, I started silent sitting again, easily accessing what I had experienced first at school.
HTM: Thank you so much for that account. I would like to get into some of the details if possible. I am particularly interested in your phrase "I still find what happened hard to define". I cannot help but ask you to try. Your writing is very good and flows well. My guess is if you gave it a shot we would both benefit. It's okay if it is a bit wobbly or stream-of-consciousness. It is very encouraging for readers to hear about heightened experiences.
Rahasya: I tend to resist talking much about experiences in meditation … too much risk of giving people ideas about what it should look like for them. The ones I mention here are pretty safe, because one was very personal, the other probably pretty much generic. It was a residential retreat in a very remote place, the glint of satellites overhead being the only sign of civilization. Five days of a very intensive meditation schedule introduced me to new techniques, and took the practice I had to new depths.
After the group there was a night of celebration. During this, walking towards an open fire at one point, leaning into the gusting wind, time stopped. My body stayed still, one foot, mid-step. The wind stopped pushing against my body and seemed to pass directly through it. My awareness of my body and surroundings faded. For a couple of (perceptual) hours, I was treated to a vision. It unreeled like a movie, a series of images, like a slide show—always two men.
On the right, the first image was clearly my father. On the left, the first was a face much more like my own. These faded and were replaced with other, similar faces. The right hand face was clearly a relative of my father. The left one was similar to the first, probably related to him. They switched again and again. Suddenly I realized I was seeing two lines of my ancestry. On the right, the men who's raising, who's training I had inherited, the first of which had been the man who had raised me from birth, who I called father.
On the left were the men of my genetic inheritance. I passed through shock at this realization, got over it, because nothing was happening except this weird slide show. Curiosity arose, which quickly became interest, then fascination. I stopped wondering if this was some strange wish-fulfillment trick of my mind (I was adopted at birth, and had had years of unanswered questions) or if it was perhaps, in some sense, real. These paired images each had some feeling of the time and place, also the attitude and spirit of both men.
Although I saw them in sequence, they were available in my consciousness each in its entirety. I could review, examine interesting ones in more detail and compare the two lines. Eventually, I felt I had seen all i needed to see right now and more. I felt great gratitude for the experience. The wind pressed against me again, and I completed the step. Riding back from the group, alone around midnight somewhere in the middle of the 1000km journey another unusual thing happened.
There was a loud bang. My helmet was gone. I braked hard and turned back. There were just a few small pieces of it on the road. A few minutes later, riding bareheaded, I heard music—particularly beautiful music. Definitely a choir, but voices and a language that was completely unfamiliar—crystalline sparkle with fluidity. It seemed to be coming through my skull by bone conduction, more than via my ears. It faded away after more than an hour as I saw the next town's lights on the horizon.
As I mentioned before, from then on, meditation was a deep passion. For several years after that, I worked my way through hours of cathartic techniques a day, later on gentler, more traditional forms. Eventually, I started silent sitting again, and experiences like my first satori and these visions became relatively mundane—something to rush through without bothering much with them, just a step on the way to the void beyond.
HTM: Thank you for that. Is it your belief that this was in fact some necessary healing going on, establishing for you a deeper connection to source— beyond biological heritage and deeper into original nature?
Rahasya: The territory I glimpsed in those moments is vast, but not transcendent. I call it the esoteric zone, or the space between regular life and death. It is quite a varied and complex territory, encompassing all of what people call past lives, genetic memory, malevolent entities, ghosts, guardian spirits, things that can be channeled, and even the Akashic records. It is also the dimension in which habits and patterns of massed consciousness become engraved and develops a shape which individual consciousness tends to follow … what Jung calls archetypes.
I am not very enthusiastic about these areas. Certainly, they are often an inducement to take the path, and certainly, a seeker invariably has a few things that can only be addressed in the esoteric zone. Nonetheless, with the typically more advanced seekers I get to work with, this territory is just as much, if not more of a distraction as TV. I call it Esoteric TV.
Satori, in the bastardized English way I use the word, means a flash of light in the darkness. It is a glimpse of truth, not truth itself—a look from a window, not a walk in the field. They happen. They are sometimes terrifying, sometimes wonderful. When they have passed, the mind holds a memory of the satori, and interpolates from that memory at its peril.
There is an old story involving blind men encountering each a part of an elephant. Each has experienced something of truth, but only a part. The resulting descriptions vary from whip to tree. Interpolating from their observations will not likely give much of an idea of the elephant itself. I encourage some exploration of the esoteric zone, but most of my students come to me after much prior work. I do intervene to prevent them becoming entranced or getting too ego-high in these experiences.
I prefer them to be regarded as the rarely encountered fringes of experience, not something distinct from normal experience— nothing in any way more special than any other moment. My work with people is largely about helping them to face and handle the loss of attachment to things that keep their ego-minds entranced. There is, for me, no essential difference between challenging a student's attachment to regular worldly things and their attachment to, for example, their close personal relationship with an esoterically-sourced Goddess.
By far the greatest and most necessary spiritual work on my own path was in the common, mundane, seemingly well known areas of experience. Those few days with Veetman and what he taught me of sincerity and acceptance was of great use to me. Possibly the fringe experiences which followed were necessary to the unfolding of my path. The considerable personal work I had done before and the years of intent meditation that followed were unquestionably vital.
HTM: I want to ask a few questions about Tantra, but before that I cannot resist. I have to ask a rather odd and perhaps funny question. Frankly, I am not sure what to expect...but I feel it is important for getting to the heart of your personal meditation practice. You write a great deal about yourself as a teacher. I want to really get to a certain vulnerability that is the essence of this whole thing. Can you give a personal account of the beauty of the divine you witness in yourself and all in your deepest meditation practice?
Rahasya: Existence appears to me to be elegant and simple. Beauty/ugliness, progress/regression, awareness/ignorance, love/hate, compassion/indifference appear at different scales and from various points of view. My experience is that I am completely lived by existence, just as my breath is breathed. I can exaggerate or resist what is happening, just as I can force my breath or hold it—in other words, not much, and not with any endurance.
HTM: I love that—especially the "metaphor" of the breath. I was reflecting on my last question and actually cracked myself, thinking of an idea for an article entitled "The Benefits of Enlightenment". In many of these interviews, those who meditate appreciate the levels of awareness they manage to bring into their daily lives. Obviously there are those who meditate to calm down, relax, etc. and then there are those who seek a certain "culmination" or "awakening" of sorts.
Rahasya: On my path I was always highly motivated, but not necessarily by particularly pure, high or noble intentions. When I was at school, it was an escape. Later, married, it was sometimes a matter of competition, sometimes a matter of just trying to keep up. I don't recall ever having any urge to the enlightened condition. Towards the end, sitting silent just felt as necessary as food. A person can take attitudes, methods, and techniques from Tantra for many reasons. No matter. These things will reveal their lessons, and the reasons for the pursuit will vary. Just, there will be reasons.
HTM: You write that you are completely lived by existence. We all are, are we not? The difference is in our ability to let go and enjoy it. Do you feel you still have issues connected with this level of surrender?
Rahasya: Of course, retrospectively, it is obvious that this has always been the case for me and all things. Nonetheless, my experience was that I was, for example, doing the letting go of something. It is a tiny but total difference, being unambiguously lived by existence, from breathing happening to thoughts and action happening. Very different indeed from having an intellectual understanding of the situation, no matter how liberating that may feel.
Naturally, the events, practices and esoteric experiences around the pinnacle of Mount Spiritual are the most interesting to seekers. Unfortunately, insights from the lofty heights are not of that much use. By the time you touch what they refer to, you have already covered much harsh terrain. Basically, it is good to have guidance that takes notice of where you are and what you are facing. For most seekers, even Antony Robbins is more useful than E Tolle. By the time you could benefit from Tolle's elegant/eloquent view, you see almost as much as he does. Tony, at least, can start an inquiry into your own psychopathology, even though he expresses nothing much deeper than the mechanics of basic self manipulation.
HTM: I very much appreciate how grounded your view is in the every day and ordinary. The chop wood and carry water parable works here. You have coined a few phrases that I really have enjoyed, such as "Mount Spiritual" and "Esoteric TV". I want to ask you about your relationship to thoughts and thinking in your meditative practice.
Rahasya: Thoughts and thinking happen much as walking or eating in my life. My living is in no way distinct from my meditation. Sure, sometimes there is more emphasis on one thing happening than another. Probably moments like now, putting words down with a keyboard is when there is the most thinking happening. I enjoy my mind these days, much as I enjoy my body. It seems to be in better condition than the body, but it does not always appear so.
For sure, my mind is not at all busy with most of the things that keep most people entertained—partly because most of what passes for thinking is just a pointless exercise—partly because my whole being is in support of an agenda few can understand. I seem (at least, to me) to have an unusual degree of awareness of and access to my mind's working. I am interested in this, and enjoy letting it play, just as I enjoy my body loving or dancing.
I update my mind on cultural movement, some aspects of technology, some modern physics, partly because it likes exercise and partly to keep up with the kinds of things my students are interested in—helps with teaching by analogy. I do explore unusual areas of consciousness, but not with any drive, or much interest. Mostly, it seems more useful for me to engage with people in ways they can understand, using senses they are familiar with.
And, of course, it can be a bit different with Dakinis and some students. I exercise the mind-body as a unit too. Right now, I go to play hitball, which requires the mind and body to handle a pretty good simulation of fighting. Note this tatty old site at www.hitball.org.
HTM: I would now like to focus a little on Tantra. I am not very familiar with it, but remember hearing or reading an Osho bit on it, where I believe he quoted Atisha as suggesting we “just say Yes” to everything. It may have been another Tantra master. If this is the case (the saying yes), with the apparent reconciliation of all opposites that you spoke of a few responses back, how do actually know when you are saying “yes” or “no”.
Rahasya: Other phrases common here, describing/encouraging that attitude: Yes to your yeses and yes to your noes; The Big yes; Yes to all there is. It means "yes" to what is. To what is happening right now, whether you are in favor of it or not. The idea can get confusing around areas where we object to something, but then, "what is" is the objection. So the encouragement is to say yes to your objection. Accept the fact of your objection, your no.
Saying "yes" means opening to, accepting, welcoming, possibly loving your experience. In this context, it does not mean giving your agreement to, or obeying another mind. It does mean accepting – not rejecting experiences, thoughts and feelings that you tend to resist, just as much as those you normally tend to accept.
HTM: Is this not actually driven by nature through impulse? Do you say “yes” to everything or just “yes” to the body and its natural unconscious movements? Once we have moved beyond the anger and repression that has been held within due to unlived experiences and fear are we not free to trust this body?
Rahasya: Pleasure and pain are of course part of our natural survival mechanisms. Just as naturally, we have overriding systems that operate at a higher level of awareness. For example, we may suppress our fear of bee stings, and even endure some pain in order to acquire honey. The psychological trouble most of us have is that the higher level concepts "punishment" and "reward" have become confused with pleasure and pain.
It is possible to punish with something intrinsically pleasurable, and reward with something intrinsically painful. Our tendencies to embrace or reject something have little to do with the natural pleasure/pain system, and everything to do with how our minds have been trained. The Big Yes approach is useful as a tool to explore and unravel trained in associations.
This teaching is also a corrective measure. The culture has trained us into a habit of resistance and rejection in many areas. To find the truth of your own movement and allow your own expression in the world, it is necessary to correct the bias. To move from a biased, overbalanced situation to a position of balance, one has to first over-correct.
It is seldom if ever possible to correct the balance without a wobble the other way first. The timing of this and many other similar lessons of Tantra are much helped by a little personal guidance. And certainly, when one responds more in tune with the Dharma, when one is directly, truly responsive to the real, the teaching reveals its judo.
Yes to your pleasure and Yes to your pain … doing what is natural in the area of pleasure, and doing what is natural in the area of pain … the original masochistic implication has been overturned. Yes to your pain means quickly pulling your hand out of the fire. So, sure, when we operate more or less as designed (not trained) we are in a state of trust, saying "yes" to all that is, and giving little or no regard to what isn't.
This approach of yes to whatever is also accelerates one through the psychological/therapy stage of personal work. On feeling anger, saying yes to it, getting into the punch bag, or cathartic techniques like Osho's Dynamic mediation will reveal a deeper truth. There is pain—suffering.
Saying yes to the pain means letting it bore you out, deepen you, and increase your emotional capacity, your depth. Atisha's Heart Meditation is recommended at this point, and is basically a method for deeply accepting and experiencing suffering of all kinds. Suffering and pain of the inner kind are mostly a protection, something to stop us looking at a truth—something that we lived but could not handle the scale of at the time.
To track it in reverse: It can be, for example, that we were in truth, at least a few times, an inconvenience and an annoyance to our parents—quite manageable, that truth—understandable and even a little funny, from our current capacity and perspective. Once upon a time, though, when our parents were our source of survival, that truth may have been far too scary, too threatening so absolutely impossible to accept and feel at the time. Covered with suffering, it becomes "I didn't feel my parents loved me enough".
The suffering is then covered with anger: "My parents were nasty, damaging to me on account of their refusal to give me love." And how does one know? It does not matter—just taking the attitude of yes means that you bring it to your resistance as well as your acceptance, making you more aware of both. Knowing then follows more or less automatically.
HTM: I tell you this stuff is so beautiful that I was brought to tears while reading it. There is so much forgiveness and healing present in it. Is not this "Big Yes" at the core of the Tantric (forgive me) philosophy? I suppose it is the Western suppression and distortion of sexual impulses that creates so many problems in regard to any clarity about natural impulse. Would you say that this previous moral-based programming is responsible for most of what is needed in terms of healing, and also responsible for why Tantra is so largely misunderstood?
Rahasya: In Tantra, we like tears—nice to hear of them. In the Big Yes approach, there is acceptance, but (sorry to be pedantic) not forgiveness. Forgiveness requires a sin or crime. Acceptance sums over the blame/forgiveness and just accepts the truth, which one can't profitably argue with in any case. Of course, this means valuing the truth above one's notions of "right" and "wrong", or, more clearly, "good" and "evil". It means being willing to renounce the original sin, as defined in the Christian Bible.
Being willing to renounce/refuse the "knowledge" of good and evil and admit that, if there is such a thing, that it is a matter for the divine. It is something that is beyond the scope of human perception. It also happens that this is true. If there is any absolute good or evil, we have no way of discerning it. For example, anyone who lived in the plague times would regard the plague and its huge destruction of human life as an undeniably evil, bad thing.
Anyone who appreciates and/or benefits from modern science and technology, the degree of individual freedom of thought permissible in the modern world, the value currently ascribed to human life, the concepts of individual rights and liberties, the right to choose one's spiritual, even one's sexual orientation … all very unlikely to have happened without the plagues.
The Big Yes is implied by the core philosophy of Tantra, Advaita. Advaita means "not two". In essence, this philosophy encourages the acceptance that everything that arises is in fact complete, immaculately balanced, and perfect. If it appears ugly, there is a beauty that you are missing, or closed to. If it appears beautiful, there is an ugliness you refuse to see.
For example, much of the world is more and more watched, more effectively policed year by year. It gets harder and harder to hide your interests from others. Your reading, viewing, purchasing habits, financial situation, sexual inclinations, medical history and much more is available to authorities who may be interested. Many would perhaps regard this as evil.
Simultaneously, almost every minority, subdivision, interest group of almost any sort is becoming more and more accepted. Minorities such as BDSM aficionados, the gay lifestyle, and religious affiliations of pretty much any persuasion, are all, in fact, enjoying a greater degree of respect from their fellow humanity than ever before. Many, perhaps, would consider this good.The truth is: As we as a collective examine people's lives more closely, we as a collective learn to accept, or at least tolerate, an increasing range of behaviors and beliefs.
Realizing this, on an individual level, you are challenged to admit that the only guide you may have to true morality is your aesthetic. Be guided by what you find beautiful. Of course, it is also a challenge to develop your aesthetic. Obviously, this is an insight only suited to reasonably aware individuals. It is not something that collectives of any sort are mature enough to handle. No collective, from the scale of partnership to the scale of government can operate outside of the concepts of good and evil.
It is an ability that only aware individuals can manage (generally under a guru's close supervision and guidance). It requires a human capacity. Collectives are not human. They are the (organically necessary) replacement we have invented for predators. They have their own lives, and no individual in them— be he the Pope or a CEO has any real power. They just form part of a cooperative organism, much like the individual entities that are the cells in a jellyfish or the ants in a colony.
The head fellow and any underlings can individually operate according to their aesthetic, if they choose to claim that human power. The collective, of whatever kind, like most of humanity, needs good and evil. I suggest that "good" and "evil" are not useful to those who claim their individuality to any extent. They are, I insist, absolutely necessary to those that are inclined to roll with "what everyone knows". They are an important cultural device, carrot and stick, without which most of humanity would be very difficult to direct and guide.
Perhaps 2% of the population would be considered seekers. All Western seekers can benefit from Osho's Neo-Tantra, which is the root of pretty much all current Western practice. It is hard to see how progress of awareness in any authentic sense is possible without at least taking a good honest look at one's sexual psychopathology. Perhaps a fifth of Neo Tantra practitioners develop or reveal a capacity for Tantra "as far as it goes".
So seekers, and to a greater extent, Tantrikas are a miniscule minority. Nothing in my aesthetic urges me to disturb the greater portion of humanity. Like most seekers, I have found societal restrictions uncomfortable, chafing at times. Like most, I have to admit that if the culture was more "enlightened", it could have taken me longer to confront the mindset I had been given. Seekers need to break the mould the culture cast them in, without exception. It may be that a comfortable enough cast would never be broken.
I certainly hold no expectation that Tantra— even Neo-Tantra will ever be understood in any useful way by most people. I have great gratitude that it seems, in the time and place I happen to be, that I and my fellow teachers can practice without having to lie about what we do. It is a delight to be able to reach the 2% without seeming to disturb the 98%. Partly this is possible because the 2% that we are involved with are a subset of the most educated, most intelligent and most aware in the general population—those that read—those that achieve—those that know how to use the Google on the internet machine.
HTM: Again, so beautifully put. I love acceptance over forgiveness. No wonder forgiveness is so difficult to manage. I feel that I will adopt so much of the language you use in your answers. The phrase "sums over" for the joining of opposites into their integrated whole. For example, the word "aesthetic" as opposed to "value system" in recognizing individual preference. Also, introducing the plague and fully recognizing the developments that followed. I appreciate this so much.
Is it accepted in Tantra that the divine expresses its wisdom through the harmony exhibited in the organic natural world, and that this expression is complete and whole? In short, that nature knows what it is doing fully, and when one's feelings are honored that this is how we find our way? For example, it feels good to think some things whereas it feels less good to think other things. This body/mind sum leads to a healthy organism for all bodies, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual?
Rahasya: I find the (artificial) concept of a "naturally evolved humanity" useful in teaching. Good for encouraging awareness when a student feels the constraints of mind-ego and needs motivation for the fight. Gives them a hint of what their experience might be like, if not for their inherited restrictions. A thorn used to remove a thorn. A false idea used to remove another false idea, sometimes a few false ideas. The thorn that is used is then easy to discard.
To me, all existence is alive and natural. A streaming of energy/consciousness moving through and inseparable from what we call matter. My view is that nature includes humanity, and all that humanity does. All: Advisors from the planet's largest democracy training terrorists to drag babies over barbed wire. Dakinis and Dakas in South Africa helping people from all sides of our ancestral conflicts, showing them, unambiguously, the truth of love.
We can resist, redirecting the energy of life moving through us, but it will nonetheless find expression. Our free choice resides largely in this ability. The energies of existence that move through your body to their destinations comprise what is called fate, destiny or predetermination. The degree of aware responsiveness or unaware reactivity, the choice we have to accept and dance or resist and struggle with our experience is called free will.
Trees, as far as we know, do not have a mechanism for redirecting the energy of existence that expresses in their growth. Therefore, most trees, given enough space, nutrients and sunlight grow into beautiful trees, full expressions of what that dance of energy and matter can look like. Humans do have such a mechanism, so most humans are bonsai humans—self-restricted through unconscious acceptance of their cultural training.
This looks ugly to free thinkers, anarchists and Dawkins-style evolutionists, but only because it mirrors their own, noticed but unaddressed constraints. I do not regard bonsai humans as unnatural or ugly. What their combined energies can do is surely core to the expression and expansion of life and consciousness. I respect them as playing the game of life with total suspension of disbelief, in shallow (but as deep as they get) acceptance.
There is no species divide. Seekers do not represent a step in evolution. They do not breed true. Like everyone else, they start out mostly in the bonsai condition. Coming to awareness, they find their constraints to be self-imposed. Of course, each of us that chooses to move cooperatively with what existence wants of us catalyses those around us. As Tantra tends to work with the elite of a culture, it is a route whereby awareness-positive attitudes can affect group minds.
For example Werner Erhart's impact on Hollywood, Oprah and Dr. Phil— I believe some very gorgeous things can arise from the current murky dirty stuff currently going on in international business/war/politics/religion. Health and growth are very hard to see close up—mostly because life moves jerkily at small scales, smoothly at large scales.
HTM: I want to allow the trajectory or arc of this dialogue to fall to a natural conclusion as I believe we have hit the peak of this particular subject. Perhaps we can do more in the future. I want readers to be able to follow what will likely be a relatively well-balanced introduction to what Tantra meditation is. However, I am enjoying this very much and keep getting drawn in and have new questions. I want to ask about your school, but I want to sneak a few more questions in first.
Okay, so here go my last few questions. I believe it is Gurdjieff who suggests that the percentage (98% to 2% or whatever) between what you are calling “bonsai humans” and seekers is a fixed ratio, similar to a cone (my image). In short, he asserted that we should never expect more than this percentage to be deeply interested in being this aware. I want to know what your thoughts are on this.
Rahasya: I like the old Hindu categories, Pasha, Vira and Devya, Pasha: in the nooses of family, tradition, culture and so on. Vira: motivated by urges to heroism, personal success and ego gratification. Devya: Divinely inclined, insistent on truth. In the Catholic Church, for example, Pasha are the congregation, Vira are the priests, Devya are the mystics. I believe the distinguishing factors are in part genetic and part the environment/nurturing for the first six years of life.
This sets the degree of difficulty for individuals. Individual spirit, commitment and determination and other factors then come into play. Statistics do not apply to individuals. It is very difficult to determine causes. Perhaps someone is a seeker/devya on account of having enjoyed sufficient freedom to learn directly from existence as a child. Perhaps it is their individual will and dedicated insistence on truth that enables them to see the freedom and the learning from direct experience that was there in their past—hard to say.
I am not much bothered with these discernments. The reason I mention it in my teaching is to help seekers get over their offense at the basic indignities of the culture's way and reduce the urge to outward rebellion/anarchism. When seekers get when they catch on to their being, in a way, a higher life form than most people, some meaningful challenges to the ego arise.
That is when I point out that Pasha out do them in persistence, steadfastness of principle and submission to the dharma as they experience it. They are concerned for survival, can be lured into over-indulgence but are not intrinsically greedy. Vira are driven further by their need to look good in the tribe—to be seen as heroic—to be rich. They can be greedy but they can also become benevolent philanthropists.
Devya are irresponsible, wild, un-accepting and greedy for what they hope is more significant, more wholesome— more wonderful than anything available to Pasha and Vira. The greediest, most highly developed egos of all. Get over being proud of it. In Tantra, a guru's art is to get the cooperation of this over-achiever-ego, and direct its power towards creating its own obsolescence.
In no way do I or the teachers of this school regard or use this description of classifications as an indication of who to work with. We are just aware that it is not our job to appeal to people of a Pasha inclination, or indulge Viras who dream of having a Mercedes in the garage and a Tantrika in the bedroom among their possessions.
HTM: To drag some Tao and Te into the discussion, if nature represents Te (the expression of the formless Tao) then though no evolution over time takes place, when attachment to thoughts or a materialistic version of life is released, true nature (original nature) effortlessly expresses itself. In short, the witness witnesses the witness and with fixations dropped, the biology of the body relaxes into its truth of health. Evolution is not a proper word for this. However do you recognize anything in this last assertion as accurate?
Rahasya: Accurate enough, at a particular scale, from a particular point of view. Certainly a good starting point for a debate with Gurjieff, both Krishnamurtis, the Dakinis of this school and perhaps some modern Advaita teachers, though most of them wouldn't be able to keep up.
HTM: Please now tell me more about your school.
Rahasya: Ok, let's see how I go on my favorite topic. When I started teaching, around December 2002, the first of the women who are now Dakinis (a title not given lightly) were attracted to and learned from me in a beautiful assortment of ways … their own stories to tell, one day. One by one, they came to a level of awareness from which they could be of great use to others. Again, their own stories to tell, their first experiences of teaching led to the method or approach that is still the core of our teaching work.
Historically, Dakinis have always been the true carriers and founders of tantric lineages. They have been the mothers, lovers and wives of the men that in a patriarchal world had to be seen to be leading. Very occasionally, they have broken cover and been known publically. Very seldom have they been available to seekers that were sufficiently persistent to find them. Even when they have been, they have been extremely careful and selective.
Mostly, the very few men there teaching were available to were their lovers in one context or another. Very seldom did a Dakini teach many men, even though many had the capacity. My hope in the early days of my teaching was that they would pass on what I have taught them to at least one man, at least as far as he would be able to learn.
My delight is that they each choose to engage with men who show just a minimum of respect and sincerity … round about what is usual in the culture for a therapist or medical specialist. They make available a level of conscious teaching that was simply unavailable in the west, perhaps in the world, when I was seeking. They make it very available, and are hugely generous in how accepting and encouraging they are of their students.
In individual sessions work, the Dakini supports her student to his awareness. She challenges assumptions about love, eroticism, beauty, truth and sex. Whatever the student's capacity, level of awareness or degree of contraction, she is available to nurture, teach, guide and love. What she does not do is contract to provide any particular or general sexual experience. She does contract to do the best she can, informed by her intuition and experience, to support this particular seeker in what they most need to learn or practice right now.
A session can look like passionate lovemaking. It can also look like life-coaching or even intense nagging! Dietary recommendations, karate, yoga and so on— have on occasion been prescribed/required by Dakinis. They use their considerable overt and subtle powers to show you what lies beyond your mind-ego's assumptions and defenses, whatever that takes and however it looks. They are ruthless in their compassion.
Irreverent joke: What is the difference between a Dakini and the Goddess? Answer: You can negotiate with the Goddess. Some students have a regular session every week or month. Others, just whenever they feel brave enough. Some find their first session so moving, so vast in its implications that it takes a couple of years before they are ready for another.
More recently, we have evolved several levels of group work to help with the more common areas of the work. The stuff pretty much every Tantrika needs to address. Where possible, we encourage couples with a mutual interest in Tantra to work together. In a couples sessions, we support them to be teachers to each other.
HTM: What is your "position" there? Also, do these Dakinis historically have any connection to the Vestal Virgins in Greek city states, who were keepers of the heart(h)?
Rahasya: The Dakinis call me "director of the school", "guru" and "swami" in that context. In basic structure, we seem to have evolved something similar, in core structure, to the traditional functions of Dakas, Dakinis and guru. In ancient Greece, the Hetaera were the Dakinis. Their intent was similar to Egyptian king making. Their students became renowned philosophers and civic leaders. Producing those leaders, charging very high prices to do so, paying a lot of tax and sponsoring libraries, baths gave them status equivalent to those they had taught. They were women with overt and significant social power.
Greece was also much influenced from the Hindu and Buddhist East as well, though. It is possible that a Dakini tradition of healing wounded warriors came to Greece via Theravada Buddhism. Theravada … Theraputae … therapists—much like Krishna … Christos … Christ. Vestal virgins were a later Roman thing, and possibly the last way women in the Western world managed to have some autonomy, space to teach each other in an institution respected (for a while) by the patriarchal environment.
HTM: How does one go about becoming involved in this school of yours? Where is it located exactly, how many are involved currently, and what requirements must be met? I'd like readers to have this information.
Rahasya: The core school is me, five Dakinis and two Dakas teaching. We have worked with a few hundred seekers so far. Perhaps thirty we would regard as adepts, students who have some worthwhile capability. At present, there are a few interested in teaching Tantra or neo-Tantra practices, and working towards that. We do travel. Currently an adept, a Dakini and a Daka are in India filming a documentary on ancient Indian schools. Plans for teaching (groups, workshops) in England, and possibly the USA are being considered, but we prefer to encourage students to come here.
We are based in South Africa's two major cities, where most individual sessions happen. We do regular retreats and workshops in a few particularly special venues around the country. Since being represented at a conference in Arizona, and giving around half of the presentations at an international conference here, we have become much more connected with Tantrikas around the world. Dakini Shakti is very involved in organizing the next Sexuality and Consciousness conference in Cape Town, December this year.
Requirements: We do stress that this is a spiritual path, and a rough one at that. We make no claims about healing ED, PE or sexual addictions. Many students come to us with these problems, relationship issues and so on, which tend to resolve quite naturally in the course of the work. We like students to have had some physical discipline … yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, dance. Some mental discipline … almost any esoteric, mystical studies count. Computer programming, modern physics, playing Go, LGATs (est style things), NLP or even personal coaching training.
Of course, we especially like students with some experience of Neo-Tantra work. We like all the big-name schools for this, the Osho centers, Margo Anand's Sky Dancing school— even the ones who "don't teach neo Tantra", because they do, and that critical-of-others attitude is just their marketing pose. To encourage more international students, and give them a deep, worthwhile experience of Tantra … more than a weekend retreat, Dakini Wendy and I have partnered with a travel agent to offer what we call Tantra Safaris— 11 or so days, four workshops and the option of individual sessions. The venue is the gorgeous Sabi Sabi game reserve.
We have had a number of requests from students for "certification" in some areas of tantric work. The debate is on. Perhaps we will play that game too.
HTM: Thank you so much for doing this interview. It has been inspiring for me. I still have so many questions. I believe you have a website that offers information for anyone who has further questions. Is that right?
Rahasya: It has been fun, Benjamin.