Michael Taft: Welcome to Deconstructing Your self, the podcast for meta-modern mutants fascinated by meditation, hardcore Dharma, neuroscience, the Ministry for the Future, predictive processing, Vajrayana, nonduality, awakening, and far, far more. My identify is Michael Taft, your host on the podcast, and on this episode, I’m talking with Christopher Wallis. Christopher Wallis, often known as Hareesh, is a Sanskritist and scholar-practitioner of classical Tantra, with thirty years of expertise. He was initiated by a standard Indian guru on the age of 16 and obtained training at yoga ashrams each in India and the West. He holds a number of levels, together with an MPhil in classical Indian religions from Oxford, and a PhD in Sanskrit from UC Berkeley. Hareesh is the creator of Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, Historical past, and Apply of a Timeless Custom, and in addition of The Recognition Sutras, a translation, and commentary on a 1000-year-old masterpiece on experiential recognition of oneself as a direct expression of common divine consciousness. And now, with out additional ado, I provide the episode that I name “Exploring Nondual Shaiva Tantra, with Christopher Wallis,” aka Hareesh.
Michael Taft: Hareesh, Welcome to the Deconstructing Your self podcast.
Christopher Wallis: Thanks.
MT: I’m so glad to have you ever right here. After all, most individuals most likely in the event that they know of you’ll know you by your English identify, which is Christopher Wallis. However I’m, in fact going to name you Hareesh for this interview.
So I first discovered about your work listening to by way of numerous college students and fellow practitioners and so forth a bit bit about it. However ultimately, I acquired my fingers on a replica of Tantra Illuminated, which was a tremendous expertise, actually a cool guide. However then I noticed you had one other one known as The Recognition Sutras. And it was like, Properly, I like Christopher Wallis’s books so let’s do this out. And I acquired a replica of The Recognition Sutras and it fairly actually blew my thoughts. I had no concept such a textual content existed. From Tantra Illuminated, I had heard of it, and I knew that there have been Nondual Shaiva Tantra traditions. However nonetheless, I used to be unprepared for simply how wonderful that’s.
So I’m simply going to throw it on the market and say, are you able to give a private background of what Nondual Shaiva Tantra is and what The Recognition Sutras are? Or the textual content is? I do know, that’s a big subject, however are you able to kind of orient us to what we’re speaking about right here?
CW: Yeah, so I’ll summarize it this manner: Tantra is a religious motion, which started within the 5 a whole lot or the sixth century, in our Western calendar, and unfold all through all of South Asia, initially, in addition to later East Asia and Southeast Asia. And I name it a religious motion as a result of Tantra itself shouldn’t be a faith, however quite a approach of doing faith, one would possibly say. So all the most important religions in South Asia at the moment developed a tantric element, that’s to say, Tantra first appeared throughout the faith known as Shaivism, which is the faith of Shiva and Shakti, now subsumed into Hinduism, and that’s been true for the final seven or eight hundred years. After which it propagated from there into Buddhism and Vaishnavism, and so forth.
So all of those religions instantiated the Tantric element. Which means to say, one may very well be a practitioner of those religions in a non-Tantric mode or in a Tantric mode. So simply to be clear, one may very well be a Buddhist or a Tantric Buddhist, and the distinction there concerned taking a kind of increased stage of initiation that gave one entry to teachings and practices, that have been past the frequent core of faith. And what’s attention-grabbing is that the Tantric practices have a lot the identical type in whichever spiritual custom they seem. So despite the fact that Buddhism and Shaivism, for instance, have many alternative doctrines, and philosophies, the Tantric practices themselves are typically even nearly similar in these two completely different spiritual contexts. And that’s why it’s acceptable to consider Tantra as a religious motion that unfold by way of these numerous religions.
MT: Let me simply interrupt for a second and say, as you recognize, I’ve a background in Hindu Tantrism, and did a number of practices in that model. And I used to be shocked, truthfully, I used to be used to doing all these practices in Sanskrit and, and going by way of the order of practices and so forth. And once I acquired concerned in Vajrayana, so Buddhist Tantra, I already understood all the pieces they have been doing, a minimum of on the ritual stage, perhaps the philosophy behind it’s completely different, however the practices have been just about similar. I used to be simply shocked.
CW: Precisely. And over time, a few of these similarities turned a bit bit much less apparent. There have been sure divergences within the final seven 800 years. However on the interval Tantra was flourishing–which was in regards to the 12 months 800 to 1200 of our calendar when it was maximally influential. Then yeah, we see the identical actual ritual applied sciences, not solely ritual, however by way of the interior yogas, the interior practices of visualization and deity yoga and all this kind of factor have been actually similar, however with completely different names and kinds, proper? So, in fact, a Buddhist is invoking Vairocana, or Akshobhya, or a Buddhist Bodhisattva, and a Shaiva is invoking Shiva below numerous Tantric names, or the goddess, you recognize, so the names and kinds are completely different, however the actual follow, the ritual know-how, we’d say whether or not interior or outer, was the identical.
So it’s fascinating, and Tantric research is a reasonably new subject. It’s been flourishing in tutorial circles for the final 50 years. And the outcomes of that analysis can also be making its approach little by little to the practitioner context, which is vital as a result of a number of Vajrayana practitioners, for instance, didn’t even notice that there was this frequent ritual syntax as students typically name it. And that many of those Tantric practices, if not most, truly derived from the Shaiva custom, to make use of the proper Sanskrit adjective.
So, Nondual Shaiva Tantra is one thing that emerged within the mid-Ninth century. That’s to say, a type of Tantric follow that was embedded in a nondual philosophy. And this developed over time till it turned actually fairly a classy imaginative and prescient of actuality, during which all these deities that you simply work with in Tantric follow weren’t seen anymore as supernatural individuals that one may transact with, however quite as icons of essence. The place every of the deities instantiated some facet of our common essence nature, that’s to say, of the character of consciousness itself. So the deities have been understood to precise features of that consciousness by which all acutely aware beings are acutely aware, that consciousness which instantiates as the attention of every sentient being.
So Nondual Shaiva Tantra ultimately developed right into a type which some students say is even atheistic within the sense that there isn’t a God separate from this consciousness. However this consciousness is known to be trans-individual, and subsequently, completely different from how folks would ordinarily conceive of consciousness. As a result of the odd perspective, you recognize, it’s my consciousness versus your consciousness. And right here we’re understanding that there’s one trans-individual consciousness. The metaphor is usually used, that every one issues are seen by the sunshine of the solar, even when it’s at some take away, proper, as a result of if a lamp is lit, the gas of that lamp is the saved power of the solar. And so in truth, all illumination is that very same basic power, and that’s used as a type of analogy for this imaginative and prescient of actuality, during which consciousness is singular.
And but we nonetheless invoke these deities as a result of we don’t know ourselves in our true nature or in our deepest nature. And the deities serve to point to us in numerous methods, one thing in regards to the vastness, the ability, the depth of that consciousness, which we’re, and which will get missed insofar as we’re recognized with the bodymind or different kind of adventitious options of embodied expertise.
So, Nondual Shaiva Tantra then ended up being fairly influential all the best way down to the current day, even when the supply of the affect is now not remembered. So in fashionable yoga, for instance, folks will invoke ideas that they don’t notice initially come from this custom of Nondual Shaiva Tantra: ideas of oneness; or the universality of consciousness; or the notion that the physique is the temple of the deity. This can be a instructing discovered on this custom.
MT: Yeah, let’s simply pause there for a second, due to course, we’re calling this Nondual Shaiva Tantra, and today that might be lumped collectively within the basic class of Hinduism. However we have now one other huge nondual custom lumped collectively in Hinduism, which is, in fact, Advaita Vedanta. And each of those are “Hinduism.” And each of those are nondual, however in fact, they’re very completely different. And I’m simply curious if, in a short approach, you may assist us to disambiguate these two types of nondual follow.
CW: Yeah, and it is a advanced query due to the truth that Advaita Vedanta, over the past eight hundred years, absorbed a number of Tantric affect. So the type of Vedanta that folks have interaction with, a minimum of in India–setting apart for the second the typically known as Neo Advaita of Western practitioners. Indian Advaita Vedanta is deeply influenced by Tantra because it seems at this time and has for a whole lot of years. And that obscures the elemental variations between these two types of nonduality.
And a thousand years in the past, these variations have been stark as a result of Advaita Vedanta posited a singular absolute consciousness known as Brahman, which didn’t have any Shakti. That’s to say, it didn’t have any dynamism. It didn’t do something, it was a pure witness, proper? So that is the best way that the Tantrikas criticized it, they’d say, Oh, your notion of consciousness is devoid of Shakti, whereas, within the Tantric conception of consciousness, it has inherent powers, energies, or potencies known as Shaktis, such because the Energy of Bliss, the Energy of Figuring out, the Energy of Will, the Energy of Performing, and so forth.
And so in response to Tantra then, the One Consciousness truly does rework itself into the substance of every expertise. And it is a dynamic course of by which it contracts into the type of an expertise, after which expands as soon as once more into its full potential, after which contracts into the type of the subsequent expertise, despite the fact that this oscillation or spanda shouldn’t be absolutely perceptible to most acutely aware brokers with out deep reflection. Whereas within the Vedantic view, there isn’t a exercise in consciousness, and the notion that there’s exercise is an phantasm. So, subsequently, the world shouldn’t be actual. It’s an look, very similar to a mirage in a desert or mistaking a rope for a snake, there truly is not any snake and there by no means was a snake. It’s only a cognitive error. Whereas in Tantra, the world is actual. It’s an actual transformation of consciousness. It’s nothing however consciousness, and but it’s an actual transformation of consciousness.
So on this approach, Tantrikas commemorated variety, and Vedantans dismissed variety, which is a reasonably stark distinction that had real-world implications, as a result of Tantrikas have been non-renunciate, as a result of they have been world-embracing of their perspective as a result of all the pieces on this planet is a type of the One and deserves to be commemorated as such. And for Vedantans, the One by no means truly turns into something apart from its transcendent, absolute nature.
So it’s truly a bit arduous to elucidate as a result of for the Tantrikas, within the course of by which consciousness transforms itself into the substance of any expertise, it by no means truly loses its transcendent character. It doesn’t change into much less divine by remodeling itself into the substance of expertise. However it does create these potentialities for misunderstanding. So despite the fact that all the pieces that seems inside expertise is just a distinct vibration of the identical One, due to variety, we are able to mistake it for being one thing separate.
So there’s some commonalities, but additionally some distinct variations that like I say, have largely been obscured. So in the event you speak to a contemporary practitioner in India, of Vedanta, they’re additionally studying Tantric texts, however calling them Vedantic texts, for instance, the Soundarya Lahari. They declare was written by the founding father of Advaita Vedanta, and so they declare it for themselves, despite the fact that in truth, it wasn’t written by Shankaracharya. It’s a Tantric textual content. That’s only one instance of what we’d name the Tantrikisation of Vedanta.
MT: It’s so attention-grabbing, there’s truly fairly a protracted thread, we may go on there. And perhaps we’ll do it later on this speak. However thanks for making that distinction. So, Nondual Shaiva Tantra isn’t Advaita and particularly early on, they’re very completely different. So now you have been about to inform us about this specific textual content from the Nondual Shaiva Tantra custom, The Recognition Sutras.
CW: Sure, The Recognition Sutras. In Sanskrit, the title is Pratyabhijñā-hṛdaya, which accurately means the Coronary heart of the Teachings on Recognition. It’s a textual content that teaches this actual Tantric nondual doctrine that I used to be simply indicating, and it does use the phrase Advaita. Or it’s shut synonym, Advaya in Sanscrit. And in reality, when this custom names itself, you recognize what we’re calling Nondual Shaiva Tantra it calls itself Parameshwar Advaya-Vada, which suggests the best way of the supreme nonduality of divinity. Okay, Parameshwar Advaya, which suggests Advaita, Vada. And what they imply by that expression is one thing very attention-grabbing that as an alternative of this nondual view that excludes duality and says duality is flawed, it is a nondual view that features duality, as a legitimate stage of expertise, although, not an absolute one. So the distinction right here is that this nondual custom validates follow in a dualistic mode, as a type of stepping stone for many individuals to a more true or extra all-encompassing nondual consciousness.
So if we put this in on a regular basis language that everybody can perceive, in the event you expertise that the One common consciousness is one thing larger, wider, or deeper than your self, since you’re nonetheless recognized as a bodymind more often than not, then it is sensible to venerate that as a better energy, to make use of a standard phrase, till you notice that that’s, in truth, what you’re in your deepest nature. So in different phrases, on this nondual custom, you’re not purported to faux it until you make it and fake to an expertise that you simply don’t but have. And that truly, the worship of this increased energy can result in the conclusion that you simply your self are that, in phases which can be rigorously prescribed in that custom. That you simply begin to acknowledge that your individual consciousness has the very same capacities and potencies of this supposed increased energy, that you simply’ve been venerating as one thing past your self. And so the sense of restricted or separate self dissolves into that larger context, which you notice is what you have got, in truth, been all alongside.
In order that’s why it’s the best way of upper nonduality, a nonduality that features duality and numerous ranges of duality inside itself, subsumes them, in addition to in the end transcends them.
So this doctrine is defined at size on this textual content, which we name The Recognition Sutras as a result of it consists of twenty sutras, with commentary by the creator of the unique sutras. So it’s one complete textual content, and to take the sutras out of that context is flawed, and a few authors have carried out that. However actually, they should be taken in mild of the commentary on the sutras composed by the creator of the sutras. So he composed all of it as one singular textual content. And despite the fact that it’s extremely profound, this textual content is definitely a abstract of much more abstruse philosophy.
So you recognize, there’s a convention in Nondual Shaiva Tantra known as the Recognition College, the college on acknowledge your self because the deity that you simply have been beforehand worshipping, as if nearly separate. So Pratyabhijñā means recognition, the popularity of your consciousness because the common consciousness. So this abstract is definitely far simpler to learn than the huge physique of labor that it’s primarily based on, and, importantly, contains practices. So within the translation I’ve carried out, The Recognition Sutras, in the event you make it to chapter 18. That’s the place you get all these fantastic practices. And that is kind of counterintuitive for some fashionable readers who need practices extra upfront, however within the conventional view, you need to perceive the context during which these practices make sense. And so the view is laid out first after which comes the follow in the direction of the tip of this chic textual content.
And by the best way, this textual content was composed within the Kashmir Valley 1000 years in the past, and many individuals think about it part of the literature known as Kashmir Shaivism. And Kashmir Shaivism, is a little bit of a misnomer, as a result of it implies a convention that was particularly endemic to Kashmir, when in truth, this custom was completely pan-Indian, not confined to Kashmir in any respect. However the identify Kashmir Shaivism happened within the twentieth century, to indicate the actually wonderful works of literature written by masters of Nondual Shaiva Tantra who occurred to dwell in Kashmir. However they themselves very a lot knew that they have been commenting on and elaborating a pan-Indian Tantric custom that we name Shaiva Tantra.
MT: It’s additionally fascinating that these texts nearly didn’t make it right down to the trendy day. It’s a reasonably fascinating story how they even got here to know of them. Are you able to share a bit little bit of that with us?
CW: Yeah, it’s attention-grabbing, as a result of plainly Buddhism, or Tantric Buddhism, particularly, survived the colonial interval a lot better, when in truth, Tantric Buddhism, like the remainder of Buddhism was worn out in India with the Muslim conquests. And the explanation folks know of Tantric Buddhism below the identify Tibetan Buddhism at this time is as a result of it acquired exported to Tibet, and different areas as properly, earlier than these conquests. So it’s vital to know that the Tantric Buddhism that we all know in its Tibetan type, existed in nearly similar kinds in India previous to that, and naturally, the Tibetans know this as a result of they know that their texts in Tibetan are practically all translations of Sanskrit originals, although, in fact, they added their very own commentaries in Tibetan as properly.
So simply as Tantric Buddhism was flourishing in India, so was Tantric Shaivism. And when the Muslim conquest got here, Tantric Buddhism was no extra in India. It was worn out extra simply as a result of it was extra institutionalized, you can say, and Shaiva Tantra was a bit extra grassroots. The follow context for Shaiva Tantra was primarily not establishments, however houses of owners just like the (24:19) Kula would collect within the dwelling of the guru or another senior practitioner. And never solely in these institutional contexts.
So Shaiva Tantra survived the Muslim conquests, however in an attenuated type, and continued to be attenuated over time as a result of within the context of Muslim rule, beforehand disparate teams that we now name Hindu kind of glommed collectively into the development we name Hinduism. It’s an natural building, proper? That basically got here collectively solely within the final 800 years.
And naturally, it is a complete can of worms as a result of folks in India get very upset at Westerners saying this as a result of they wish to say, properly Hinduism is 1000s of years previous. And naturally, the element elements of Hinduism are 1000s of years previous, lots of them, however the notion of a Hindu id, which is frequent to Vedic Brahmins and Vaishnavas and Shaivas, that solely happened below Muslim rule.
So, the purpose is, although, that this means of attenuation continued till the Tantric custom was fragmented, the place to kind of simplify it, the philosophy of Tantra survived primarily in Kashmir and a few different locations. A few of the yogic practices of Tantra survived in another areas like Rajasthan. And the ritual practices of Tantra survived primarily within the deep south of India, like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and different locations. And a few of the sexual practices of Tantra survived solely in Japanese India, Bengal and Assam.
And so the custom fragmented as a result of all of those parts I’ve simply talked about, philosophy and yoga and ritual and embodied or sexual practices have been all a part of one custom, however survived in several areas, and gave rise to those misperceptions that now we perceive it was one custom. And it’s after we deliver these disparate parts again collectively once more, that we see the true energy of the Tantric revelation.
And somebody would possibly say, However don’t we see it in Tibetan Buddhism as properly? Properly, Sure, and no, as a result of Tibetan Buddhism is a extremely monasticised, and institutionalized model of Tantra, which doesn’t protect all of those parts, in truth.
So every query you ask is, you recognize, probably, I may go on for an hour, however they’re making an attempt to get these order responses. However yeah, these texts did survive. There’s a steady custom, even when it barely survived, proper? Nonetheless, there’s a steady custom of research of The Recognition Sutras and a variety of different texts all the best way down to the current day. Although, as the nice Tantric scholar Alexa Sanderson says the custom handed by way of the attention of a needle, the place it actually nearly died out about 100 years in the past, and ever since has been slowly kind of making a comeback on this new international context.
MT: Good. So that you’ve been mentioning the similarities between Nondual Shaiva Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism. And we talked in regards to the ritual similarity, or we may nearly name it the approach similarities, and so forth. However what do you see as a few of the main variations, like vital variations? Most likely most people listening to this are concerned in some Buddhist custom or one other. And as you might have seen, I’ve been speaking about Vajrayana-style stuff, or Vajrayana practices, i.e. Buddhist Tantra practices, on this system just lately fairly a bit. So what are some actually vital issues which can be completely different about these practices or traditions?
CW: Properly, that’s an attention-grabbing query, as a result of it type of relies upon which lineages you’re taking a look at; which lineages of Shaiva Tantra, and which lineages of Buddhist Tantra as a result of in some instances, it’s arduous to search out any important variations. In different instances, you may. So the variety is de facto from lineage to lineage quite than between these two very comparable Tantric traditions. Nonetheless, if we’re simply portray in fairly broad strokes, one huge distinction that usually obtains is the position of bhakti or devotionalism, as a result of in Shaiva Tantra it very a lot has a spot. Once more, despite the fact that it’s a radically nondual custom, a minimum of in some lineages, nonetheless, the position of devotion was honored and emphasised as a result of as I mentioned, whenever you’re experiencing your self as a person bodymind, you expertise that your individual final nature is one way or the other one thing increased than oneself, proper, even when in different modes of follow or nondual, mystical states, that distinction utterly evaporates. So any individual would possibly transfer between these completely different poles of expertise for fairly a while earlier than they lastly get established in steady nondual consciousness.
And so, we see, for instance, an awesome authority within the sphere of Shaiva Tantra: the nice grasp Utpaladeva wrote radically nondual philosophy during which once more, he strongly asserted that what you’re calling divinity or god or Shiva or no matter identify you set is totally nothing however your individual true nature, that there isn’t any actual distinction there. And but the exact same creator wrote devotional poetry to Shiva. So this appears to be a paradox. However from his personal perspective, it wasn’t. And he even says in his poetry, issues like, to paraphrase: Oh Shiva, let me proceed to have this expertise of obvious separation from you in order that I can style the sweetness of this whole love and devotion of me for you, and also you for me, despite the fact that I do know that you’re me, and I’m you.
So that may be a function that’s not totally absent from Vajrayana. However devotional modes of expression are a lot much less frequent within the Vajrayana custom, let’s imagine. Despite the fact that in fact, Vajrayanists do carry out rituals as if a separation or distinction of self and deity have been actual, on some stage. So you recognize, that’s one distinction.
However after we’re wanting on the philosophy, there will be no noticeable distinction, particularly if we’re evaluating sure lineages. So if we’re evaluating the teachings of Dzogchen, for instance, with the teachings of the Krama lineage, a few of which seem in The Recognition Sutras, then it’s arduous to see any actual distinction within the view in any respect. Lets say there’s distinction within the follow, in fact, as a result of the institutionalization of Tantric Buddhism within the Tibetan context, signifies that you need to undergo these phases of follow which can be very strict. Which means everybody has to do the preliminary practices earlier than they get entry to the next initiation that enables them to do completely different practices and so forth. Whereas within the Shaiva context, all the identical preliminaries are there, however any individual who has ample aptitude may skip sure steps or phases or preliminaries, you recognize, they don’t essentially should do 1 million repetitions of no matter mantra or 100,000 prostrations or no matter. As a result of in Shaiva Tantra, it’s acknowledged that the aim of those practices is to deliver a couple of sure understanding or state of consciousness or expertise. And if that’s already there, then there’s no level in doing the practices that serve to deliver that about.
So this isn’t, in fact, one thing that you would be able to decide for your self. However quite you want a guru. Historically, your guru says, Okay, you may skip this step as a result of I can see you have already got the perception or the non-conceptual consciousness that this step is supposed to result in. And so perhaps that additionally occurs in Vajrayana. However so far as I’ve seen, it’s far more inflexible, I suppose, by way of the phases of follow that one has to undergo.
MT: Sure. And apparently, traditions like Dzogchen and Mahamudra that come from these deep Tantric roots discuss the identical tales of their earlier incarnations of those lineages, occurred in villages in a non-monastic setting and a way more fluid follow scenario the place the trainer is giving the scholar precisely what they want, quite than following like a prescribed route of follow, simply as you’re describing. So I believe they acknowledge that early on, it seemed extra like what you’re saying the scenario was in Nondual Shaiva Tantra, so attention-grabbing.
This to me is fascinating, in the event you’re in Dzogchen, or Mahamudra, or Vajrayana typically, and even Mahayana Buddhism, not to mention Vajrayana Buddhism, the completely central core idea that should be realized is vacancy, proper? Collectively, in fact, with compassion, however vacancy performs this totally central position in all the pieces. And but, we don’t see an excessive amount of discuss vacancy in Nondual Shaiva Tantra, a minimum of not utilizing that phrase. And so I’m curious how does Nondual Shaiva Tantra kind of strategy that very same understanding? Since these two are so comparable Buddhist Tantra and nondual Shaiva Tantra, I assume that they’re speaking about it another way, and but nonetheless addressing the identical concept.
CW: Yeah, properly, in truth, what you simply mentioned shouldn’t be true. (Laughter) Which means to say that using the time period vacancy, that within the Krama lineage—which is often known as Mahartha, Mahanaya—has many names. That is probably the most radically nondual lineage of Shaiva Tantra. And it’s actually probably the most fascinating traditionally talking, as properly, for all kinds of causes. However within the Krama lineage, you do have language of vacancy; shunya, shunyata, Mahāśūnya, consistently.
MT: I didn’t see a number of that in The Recognition Sutras.
CW: Proper. As a result of The Recognition Sutras is weaving collectively teachings from a number of lineages, primarily the Trika and the Krama. And so the Krama is there as a type of esoteric core of the instructing. However he’s additionally, you recognize, writing for an viewers that’s not essentially absolutely initiated into these teachings. So it’s not completely obvious, however in the event you learn Krama sources on their very own, then the emphasis on shunyata is fixed and you may even learn some passages that you’d suppose if a Vajrayana individual learn them he could be like, Oh, that is most likely from Vajrayana Tantra.
So what’s the distinction? That is vital as a result of, properly, once more, typically perhaps there isn’t a distinction, however typically there seems to be a distinction in that these Shaiva Tantrikas criticized the Buddhists as those that venerate the void as absolute, whereas we Shaiva Tantrikas, they are saying, are those that acknowledge that the final word realization is that of the total void, that of the vacancy which is concurrently full, or the fullness which is concurrently empty. And so, from the angle of Shaiva Tantra, you expertise this radical void of pure consciousness, which is totally empty of all particularity, empty of all qualities, et cetera, et cetera. However then you definately’re purported to transcend that, to the final word realization, which is that very same void, however now realized as pregnant with infinite risk. And the time period pregnant is usually even used when there’s a goddess-worshipping context within the background.
And so the best way Kṣemarāja places it in The Recognition Sutras is that we should always notice this vacancy as concurrently, completely full, completely empty, each, and neither vibrating in absolute simultaneity. And so the language there’s nearly harking back to Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika Path. As a result of, you recognize, it’s, he says each and neither, as a result of he doesn’t need you to know it merely as a coincidence of obvious opposites. That it’s, in truth, the true nature of actuality utterly escapes the thoughts, and is totally non-conceptual. However after we enter into the thoughts and attempt to articulate what’s been realized, then we should use this paradoxical language of the vacancy which is full and the fullness which is empty. And naturally, right here the fullness in query is that this sense of chic presence that spills over into any and all expertise in any way. Now, perhaps you may inform me are there teachings on the Vajrayana aspect, that echo this? That one way or the other say that the true nature of vacancy can also be good fullness? Do you see that type of language someplace there?
MT: I’m unsure in regards to the language of good fullness. However the concept–to talk in a really tough approach, very crude approach–that the void or vacancy is giving delivery to the whole universe, and that the type of the world shouldn’t be in any approach separate from this pristine purity of the transcendental void. That’s the central instructing. And in reality, we are able to name that the primordial purity and issues like that, the void facet, however one other phrase for it’s sugatagarbha, which you recognize, completely properly, means a womb. So giving delivery is a central picture. And the concept type and vacancy aren’t in any approach separate is, in fact, central. So I believe that if I’m not operating roughshod over the variations in language, I believe these are very comparable understandings.
CW: Yeah, completely. The purpose, a minimum of from the Shaiva Tantra perspective, is that the masters of the custom don’t need practitioners to think about that the final word actuality to be realized is wholly transcendent.
CW: Yeah. So if in case you have Mahāśūnya, as your final factor, you may think about that because the void which transcends all embodied expertise. And naturally, it does, however it additionally instantiates as all embodied expertise, and so there’s this invitation to expertise the luminous void, proper, in a deep samadhi state the place there’s no sensory expertise as per regular, that in the event you notice that that void, that vacancy is, in truth, luminous, not with literal mild, however with the potentiality to change into something, then whenever you enter again into sensual expertise, you have got the opportunity of recognizing that every one that you simply’re experiencing is that very luminous void showing as type.
MT: That’s proper, and it is a central instructing in Vajrayana. And what to me is so thrilling about these deep nondual traditions. They’re not transcendent solely. If you happen to get into, for instance, early Buddhism or in the event you get into Advaita Vedanta, they’re strictly transcendent. The world is a nasty factor, it’s a delusion, and also you wish to solely hand around in that transcendent Mahāśūnya. Yeah, proper. Like that’s the tip aim. Whereas these Tantric traditions are like, No, you’re taking it additional, simply as in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, take it additional and see that the world is that this exuberant, utterly energized expression of that void and isn’t separate from it in any approach. So quite than rejecting the world and going into some type of transcendent monkhood, we reengage with expertise, reengage with all the pieces, reengage with the beautiful brocade of creation. Which leads me to what I believe is so attention-grabbing, additionally, with these nondual Shaiva Tantra practitioners and historic figures is that they’re very concerned with artwork and literature. And in reality, they write treatises, on aesthetics, and so forth. The precise stuff of creation and expression is centrally attention-grabbing, a minimum of as I perceive it.
CW: Completely. And earlier than entering into that a bit bit deeper, let me simply additionally point out that, you recognize, if we’re speaking about shunyata, or vacancy, additionally within the purely philosophical sense of denoting a doctrine of interdependence, in fact, within the philosophy of Buddhism, vacancy and Pratītyasamutpāda are intimately linked, that all the pieces is empty of its personal inherent essence, as a result of it solely exists in relation to all of the phenomena that it’s interdependent with. And if we’re speaking about that model of the phrase vacancy, which is in fact, not unrelated to different usages, but when we’re speaking about that model, that too seems in these Shaiva Tantra teachings, particularly once more, of the Krama lineage, the place they are saying precisely because the Buddhists say, they are saying nothing has its personal unbiased essence, despite the fact that different Hindus, and that is in fact, once more, the issue with the designation Hindu, as a result of others which can be put within the Hindu basket, say the other, that every factor has its personal essence, that there’s a cow-ness that every one cows share, and so forth. However these Shaiva Tantrikas of the nondual stream have been saying that all the pieces has just one essence and that’s consciousness, not unbiased essences. However all the pieces additionally expresses a distinct facet of that one, as a result of the way it’s embedded in all the assorted interrelationships and causes and situations.
So the very purpose that an object seems as an object and seems to have a distinct high quality from another object shouldn’t be as a result of it has a distinct essence however as a result of its place within the matrix of relationships is completely different. However the entire matrix of relationships itself is emanating from this timeless area of pure consciousness, that emanates, holds, and reabsorbs all phenomena.
In order that additionally pertains to what you have been simply saying about being engaged within the aesthetic world, within the sensual world. As a result of on this increased realization, you don’t must enter right into a transcendent state to expertise the transcendent. You truly expertise the transcendent in each sensual expertise. So for the Shaiva Tantrikas, that’s the final word; to be engaged in sensual expertise and savor the distinctiveness of every sensual expertise, whereas 100% feeling the reality of the truth that what precisely you’re experiencing, in that second, is the Supreme Absolute manifest as that.
So after we use language like Supreme Absolute, it sounds so eliminated, however oblique expertise, there’s no contradiction. No matter you contact, style, odor, hear, really feel, take into consideration, sense, is the One showing in that type. So the revelation of the simultaneous universality and particularity is kind of the place it’s at, for the proponents of this custom. And that’s why you don’t must surrender the world and so forth. Despite the fact that in fact, you do must do practices that assist you to take a step again from the assorted misunderstandings that get triggered whenever you don’t but expertise the underlying transcendence. So it’s kind of like, and perhaps that is comparable in Vajrayana, however it’s kind of such as you discover ways to expertise the transcendent, after which discover ways to expertise the transcendent within the imminent. So it’s kind of very broadly talking, a two-stage course of: transcendence adopted by the expertise of the pervasion of the transcendent in all that was beforehand transcended. If that is sensible.
MT: It makes good sense. This is a vital level that one type of nondualism we have been describing, what I in my very own colloquial language, known as Nondual 1, continues to be true, the transcendent sense of the void, or pure consciousness or no matter it’s one thing that we are able to contact, and actually, is required, to be able to acknowledge what I’d name Nondual 2, which is that this imminent high quality that you simply’re describing. For most individuals, not everybody, however for most individuals, it’s going to be a two-stage course of. First letting go of a naive greedy across the type world first, earlier than we are able to then re-engage with the world of type on this radically reworked approach. So I believe it is sensible. Once more, it’s not seen that approach usually, or all the time…
CW: You realize, we’re crystallizing one thing crucial right here as a result of that’s crucial critique that these nondual Tantric traditions have of different types of South Asian spirituality is that followers of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra or earlier Buddhism or early Advaita Vedanta, they only take the one step to the transcendent, absolute, after which that’s their aim to simply keep there, transcended. And the Tantrikas are taking the second step of the full collapsing of the excellence with out shedding the related options of every that’s to say, the expertise of the full oneness of the transcendent and imminent, however not by lowering both to the opposite, however by experiencing concurrently that the entire is in each half is one method to put it. However in fact, no matter approach we put it, it doesn’t seize it completely, as a result of that is merely past the classes that the thoughts can cope with.
MT: Superb. So let’s come on again to this aesthetic function, the engagement with the creation, that’s such a signature for these Nondual Shaiva Tantra traditions.
CW: Completely. Yeah. The best Tantric grasp in Shaivism, or the one who historical past has kind of determined was the best Tantric grasp, was this determine Abhinavagupta, who lived in Kashmir 1000 years in the past. And he’s well-known for not solely writing voluminous works on Tantric philosophy, ritual, and follow, but additionally for writing voluminous works on aesthetics, poetry, dance, and drama. And in reality, on this planet of Sanskrit research, many students know him primarily in that area. And these are sometimes seen by students as separate domains. However in fact, for Abhinavagupta and a few of his associates, they weren’t separate domains in any respect. And this brings us to a very vital level, which is that the entire–from this Shaiva Tantra perspective anyway–the entire level of getting the conclusion, that we’ve been speaking about in considerably philosophical phrases, is that it makes accessible to the practitioner the direct expertise of a type of chic magnificence in all issues.
And the best way I like to elucidate this, as you recognize, within the Tantric custom, after we say all the pieces is God, and we do have that expression on the Shaiva aspect of the Tantric custom, particularly Na Shivam Vidyate Kvachit, nothing exists which isn’t God. However the issue is when Westerners hear this, they suppose we’re saying all the pieces is nice as a result of the Western conception of God is a lot related to the great. And, in fact, that might be a loopy factor to say that all the pieces is nice, struggle is nice, and so forth, however that’s not what they’re saying. And so what do they imply, once they say all the pieces is God? Properly, they imply that, in fact, that all the pieces is a type of consciousness, as we’ve been saying. However additionally they imply that there’s the chance for the expertise of chic magnificence, wherever and in all places. And that this isn’t straightforward to have till you have got nondual realization. And then you definately discover that magnificence exists in kinds that you simply’ve by no means suspected, that there’s a magnificence in decay and loss of life, in addition to in delivery and progress. That we are able to truly expertise aesthetic rapture in just about any expertise of on a regular basis life, nonetheless mundane or nonetheless difficult.
And so that is the assembly level of this aesthetic philosophy and this religious philosophy on this custom. And so within the aesthetic works, they’re known as Alankara Shastra in Sanskrit you get this instructing that Abhinavagupta was an enormous fan of, of 9 completely different types of magnificence. The so-called Navarasas, the 9 rasas the place rasa means aesthetic savor, 9 methods to savor magnificence, proper? As a result of rasa is said to phrases that imply yummy style, juiciness, and issues like that sweetness additionally, however right here it means aesthetic savor.
However what’s attention-grabbing about this instructing of the 9 rasas is that it contains classes which can be counterintuitive to Westerners, or most of them anyway. As a result of there’s the aesthetic savor attainable in romantic modes of expertise, and of poetry and dance and drama, and so forth. And there’s additionally the aesthetic savor attainable within the expertise of worry,
MT: The fear rasa.
CW: Yeah, precisely. Now, I wish to be very clear, although, as a result of nearly everybody who talks in regards to the topic or tries to speak about it, confuses and conflates rasas with emotional states, and they aren’t. So the underlying emotional state is known as the bhava. However the rasa is the expertise of magnificence, in affiliation with that emotional state. So in different phrases, if the artist transforms terror into artwork, then we are going to expertise a few of that worry by way of the artwork however in a transfigured approach. So it’s the expertise of aesthetic savor, this skill to savor the attractive throughout the scary or throughout the romantic or throughout the heroic or throughout the comedic or inside even probably the most stunning of all of the rasas maybe, is the disgusting. That which repels us will be skilled as a type of the fascination that consciousness has of itself showing in that type.
So this contemplation of the 9 rasas generally is a very nondual contemplation that there’s this attainable expertise of astonishing, properly, magnificence perhaps isn’t fairly the suitable phrase as a result of it’s extra like aesthetic rapture, camatkāra, in Sanskrit, the fascination that consciousness has with itself showing in that type. And that fascination has a component of what we’d name love. And that’s vital, as a result of it’s not that we like scary experiences or disgusting experiences, however in a approach, we love them. And this idea is definitely confirmed by even all our fashionable artwork kinds, proper? As a result of in the event you’re going to the flicks, or in the event you’re taking a look at fashionable artwork of assorted sorts, then you definately see, oh, wow, all these rasas are to be discovered there. And we as people like to be frightened in an aesthetic approach. Not that every one horror motion pictures are aesthetic. Some are simply, you recognize, they’re not artwork by any customary that I may consider, however some are, proper?
And Abhinavagupta makes that distinction. He says it’s solely true artwork if it elevates you into this chic state, which is cathartic, which is expansive. However that elevation can happen on the idea of any of those underlying feelings. So I’d truly argue removed from a distinction of aesthetic and religious philosophy that we’d like the one to know the opposite. And to know what this custom means when it says, Nothing exists which isn’t God. And by the best way, within the Sanskrit phrase there, the phrase meaning God may imply blessing, proper? So nothing exists which isn’t probably a blessing in the event you’re capable of finding the sweetness in it. And that makes far more sense than making an attempt to claim that truly, all the pieces’s actually good to know.
So we’re not purported to superimpose a constructive story onto struggling, we’re supposed to search out the sweetness in struggling. And certainly, we all know that’s attainable, as a result of a lot nice artwork and poetry has come out of struggling. And the instructing right here is you don’t should be a poet, to search out the sweetness in struggling, you would possibly have to be a poet to articulate it. However you don’t have to be a poet to search out it and expertise it. And I believe that’s a really, very highly effective instructing. And perhaps that’s one that’s distinctive to Shiva Tantra. I don’t know if there’s something comparable in Buddhist Tantra. I haven’t seen it a minimum of.
MT: There positively is, though I don’t suppose it takes such a distinguished place. However you’ve ignited my curiosity in a method, which is, are you aware of any, let’s say, poetry from this period, from the Abhinavagupta or Kṣemarāja eras that speaks to folks within the fashionable West, that you can advocate? That isn’t simply so eliminated, that it might solely be loved with nice effort at adapting it and translating it not simply linguistically, however culturally?
CW: Completely. So there’s Utpaladeva’s poetry, all these numerous hymns he wrote have been collected right into a type known as The Shivastotravali: The Garland of Hymns to Shiva. There’s a few good translations of that on the market. However much more could be the poetry which isn’t but printed in good translations, however which is coming and individuals are engaged on it, myself and different students like Ben Williams and Hamza Stainton are engaged on this. And we hope to deliver these out extra. This poetry once more from this Krama lineage I maintain mentioning as a result of I come to see it because the crown jewel of Shaiva Tantra, despite the fact that it additionally comprises a lot materials that is perhaps disturbing, in sure methods to some practitioners. And we are able to cowl that in order for you.
However the Krama has this chic poetry, which weaves collectively devotion and religious or philosophical perception. And on this sense, the poetry is nearly distinctive as a result of it’s very wealthy in religious perception and reference to philosophical ideas. However it’s not heady poetry, it’s very evocative and delightful and devotional on the similar time. So you recognize, ultimately, I wish to deliver out a guide with a number of translators concerned known as Tantric Hymns of Enlightenment, which presents this poetry of the Krama lineage. So bits and items of it are already on the market, right here and there within the public sphere, however not collected but and readily accessible. In order that’s one other huge subject to get into. And I want there have been good translations of all these supplies already obtainable, however simply to understand it’s there and extra of that might be popping out.
MT: And I simply should ask, what’s it that we’d discover disturbing in a few of these poems?
CW: Not within the poems, however within the lineage which produced them. So the Nondual Krama lineage can also be probably the most radically transgressive of all of the Shaiva Tantric lineages. And people issues go hand in hand from the angle of Shaivism and I do know from Buddhism as properly in some kinds, that the extra nondual you’re, the extra keen you’re to transgress social norms. And that every one is sensible, but additionally the Krama included type of quasi-shamanic practices. Now, some authorities interpret these by way of totally inside modes of consciousness exploring itself. However it is a type of interiorization of practices that definitely have been carried out at one level anyway, quasi-shamanic practices of intense follow for a lot of, many hours and invoking yoginis and dakinis and making blood choices, usually from one’s personal physique, you recognize, slicing open the left arm to make a blood providing to the yoginis in an effort to change into one in every of their gang because it have been, and obtain their blessings and notice that these yoginis specific potencies of consciousness which exist inside you as properly. And these yoginis seem in these theriomorphic kinds, these half animal, half human kinds. And I’m simply scratching the floor of this sort of wonderful, bizarre, and wild facet of the custom which definitely has these shamanic roots, which offers in helpful possession, which some types of Buddhist Tantra do as properly.
MT: That is samavesha, not simply merely avesha. Am I appropriate?
CW: Extra the opposite approach round, avesha refers to a possession and samavesha refers to a mystical expertise of immersion. The excellence shouldn’t be fairly so clear-cut. That’s mainly the excellence.
MT: Attention-grabbing. This results in one other subject earlier, you talked about how Tantrism is a motion that seems kind of on the similar time in a bunch of various religions. It’s a type that seems and this begs the query was the shape pre-existing in, say, ritual magic or shamanic practices of underclasses in India or one thing? And so I wish to ask that query. Do you have got any sense or does scholarship have any good sense of the place this Tantric mode got here from within the first place?
CW: Yeah, this was a query that preoccupied a variety of students for many years, and what Sanderson lastly was in a position to present–you need to learn some a whole lot of pages to evaluation all of the proof and grasp the argument–however he was in a position to present that Tantra emerged organically inside Shaivism after which propagated in a short time to Buddhism and to different spiritual traditions. However that it’s a type of logical and natural outgrowth or additional growth, I ought to say, of some themes and developments that have been already there in Shaivism, together with these practices with shamanic roots. So there’s these proto-tantric practitioners known as Kapalicas.
MT: The cranium carriers.
CW: Precisely. They flourished, particularly round 12 months 600, and for a short time after that, too. Yeah, they carried cranium bowls, they’d eat and drink out of cranium bowls. They have been ascetics, although they weren’t homeowners. Proper, and that’s, in fact, an enormous distinction. When Tantra developed, it developed as a householder, primarily a householder custom. However these proto-Tantrikas known as Kapalikas–and so they glided by different names as properly–their practices definitely had a few of these quasi-tribal quasi-shamanic roots. And apparently, the options of these Kapalikas, and so they have been 100%, you recognize, Shaiva, however all of these options migrated into Tantric Buddhism as properly. So, the sporting of the bone ornaments comes from these Kapalikas, and a variety of different options that lots of people suppose, are very a lot specific to Tibetan Buddhism. However they really come from this very early type of Shaivism. That’s not but Tantric, however as proto-Tantric, and did embrace some type of sexual ritual or consort follow. It didn’t but have this subtle nondual philosophy, it didn’t but have key elements of Tantric follow, like deity yoga. So it’s not but Tantric. There’s much more that may very well be mentioned about that.
However Buddhists who’re kind of dogmatically dedicated to their imaginative and prescient of Buddhism actually get uncomfortable and even upset when this argument is offered that the Tantric follow they maintain so pricey was initially borrowed by Buddhists from Shaivas. However the proof is de facto considerable. And it’s to not say that they only copied–I imply, they definitely did copy some practices–however they re-instantiated these practices in a Buddhist mode. They made them into very a lot Buddhist variations of these practices over time, you recognize, so one may argue that they have been open-minded sufficient to understand, hey, what these Shaivas are doing over right here appears to be working. Let’s give it a strive too.
However we all know from the historic report that Tantra moved by way of the Buddhist sphere in India very quickly as a result of we have now data of two completely different Chinese language pilgrims who got here to India solely two generations aside. The primary one doesn’t point out Tantra within the early six a whole lot after which the second within the late six a whole lot says, oh, all of the monasteries in India are doing these mandala initiations, they’re doing these Tantric teachings, they’ve these Tantric mantras. And, you recognize, he’s like, Wow, what’s this new factor? And that is simply within the area of fifty years, nearly each main monastery in India began practising Tantra. And this isn’t simply monasteries, however that’s the place we have now data.
MT: Wonderful. So Hareesh, Christopher Wallis, the place can folks study extra about your work?
CW: Yeah. You realize, despite the fact that our dialog has been very philosophical, and historic, in some methods, I simply wish to point out that, for me, all of that’s so fascinating, however none of it will have worth if it wasn’t for the ability of follow. And as a trainer, you recognize, I can typically train in tutorial modes, however I’m most fascinated by instructing in these practitioner contexts. What’s most enjoyable for me is seeing folks have these realizations in an embodied and nonconceptual approach. Simply whenever you discuss them in phrases, in fact, it’s gonna sound terribly conceptual and philosophical. However as you recognize, the direct expertise shouldn’t be heady in any respect. It’s not within the mind. It’s in consciousness, turning into conscious of itself. And the embodied expertise of that. That’s the place the true juice is, you recognize.
So I simply wish to point out for whoever’s listening that my instructing once I’m working with practitioners is definitely fairly sensible, I believe my college students would say, and so if anybody’s fascinated by exploring Nondual Shaiva Tantra as a follow, not only a philosophy, then I’ve numerous sources and instruments for folks. Primarily on my web site, tantrailluminated.org, which has a studying portal, we name it, that introduces you to all these programs and teachings, together with follow teachings that go pretty in-depth. So I’d say, you recognize, I’ve a variety of initiatives and books within the works and completely different web sites additionally. However that one tantrailluminated.org is the principle place for delving into these teachings.
MT: Past the books, the little little bit of your materials that I’ve encountered on the internet has been actually, actually top quality and really cool. So I’d extremely advocate that. All proper. In order that’s it for at this time. Thanks for approaching the Deconstructing Your self podcast, Hareesh. Actually, actually respect you taking the time.
CW: And I respect your podcast a lot. I’ve listened to perhaps a dozen episodes. And I believe it’s a improbable reduce above the same old within the podcast world. And I hope we are able to speak extra as a result of I do know there’s many, many different subjects we are able to discover and customary pursuits that we have now and you recognize, would possibly even be attention-grabbing to discover our follow historical past a bit bit respectively, for instance, amongst many different subjects.
MT: Completely. Let’s make a date for that.