On several occasion I have written and talked about the progressive stages of the yogic path. The three main stages are: awakening/enlightenment, liberation (skt. jivanmukta/arhat) and surpassed state (skt. mahasiddha/paramukta/full buddhahood). In this article I will share my casual thoughts about the energetic process of the tantric meditator in regards to karmic purification, compassion and the actuality of ”oneness”. I will look at the issue from all the way from beginning of the practice to very matured states.
Prana and shakti[/B]
First, I have to clarify the difference between two kinds of energies so that the reader will later understand what I am talking about.
In my experience the vital/breath energy (skt. prana) and spiritual energy (skt. shakti) are two entirely different kinds of energy which are cultivated by different techniques. Prana which is cultivated through physical practices such as asanas and bandhas or through breathing energy practices (skt. pranayama), is very gross compared to fine and pervasive shakti. It is my conclusion based on my own experiences with prana-practices as well as through being in contact with many people who have had pranic problems, that these two energies are not the same. I’ve often seen discussions of ”energy problems”, ”kundalini problems” or ”kundalini syndrome” but all that has nothing to do with the actual kundalini shakti or with other kinds of shakti which are numerous. Such problems are caused by pranic energy altogether. I think this is one the biggest misunderstandings in yoga today. To put it simply: Cultivated in excess prana, can cause problems while shakti that is cultivated mainly through mantra can only cause solutions, in the sense of removing dualistic barriers from the bodymind of the practitioner. So, prana and shakti are different.
Why I say this is because it is my observation that the energetic purification can not be achieved by prana practices alone. In order to completely purify the karmic knots from the subtle nervous system, one must combine the methods of pranayama and mantra. Mantra means syllables, words or sentences that are spiritually potential. Mantra does not mean just any formula of words that are repeated. Mantra is shakti in the form of spoken language. My point is that in order to finish the karmic purification in the channels and centers, one is required to learn an integrated practice that combines both the prana-aspect together with the shakti-aspect.
Purification of the channels[/B]
Every beginner yogi is taught how to purify his or her energy channels (skt. nadi). This is mainly done by practicing various forms of alternate nostril breathing (skt. nadi shuddhi pranayama). This practice is concerned with the three main channels of the energetic (pranic) body which in turn are in contact with numerous other channels of the energetic body. The idea is to purify and balance the pranic currents on the left and right sides of the body. This has a clarifying and calming effect on the mind and emotions of the practitioner. In addition, when the side channels are put into balance with each other, the central channel becomes active. The central channel in the spine is the most active channel during meditation. In other words, if either of the two side channels is more active than the other, it will be difficult for a beginner to meditate. For these two reasons, purifying the side channels and activating the central nadi, is why the technique of nadi suddhi pranayama is so widely taught. Despite of it being probably the most well-known of all pranayamas, I have met none out of hundreds of people who knew this technique who were aware of the purpose of the practice. I have neither met a person who had actually dove deep into the practice to the extent of getting his channels purified.
I usually require my students to practice nadi shuddhi daily for at least one year. Some do it longer. What takes place with the practice is that the yogi feels his body becoming very light and less obstructed compared to before. Also, the nostrils remain open and the central channel is mostly active which in turn keeps the bodymind in a close contact with calm meditative state, awareness itself. People often describe this as having more free space within them which allows them to be more relaxed, healthy and focused in whatever they pursue in life. This calm state is called calm abiding (skt. shamatha) or establishing a calm state. It is a state when one can clearly recognise pervasive peace and calm within that is permeated with aliveness, bliss and love. That is good news for everyone, especially those who are spiritually inclined. When a beginner achieves this state it is sort of a first milestone in the practice. Most certainly the benefit is felt.
Purification of the centers[/B]
Purification of the chakra-system (skt. chakra suddhi) in most cases requires much longer time than nadi suddhi (we talk about nadi suddhi here having the meaning of purifying the three main channels). It is a matter of question what type of a chakra system is concerned as there different kinds of them that different traditions use. The most well known system of chakras are the 7 basic ones between the pelvic floor (or the tip of the tailbone) and the crown of the head or the 6 between the tailbone and forehead. However, there are literally hundreds of other centers in the bodymind of man and most of them store karmas, samskaras and vasanas. I often use only the word ”karma” of all kinds of energetic grooves and knots which rule the psychological operation of man’s mind in his daily life and makes him spiritually ignorant. Most people are completely unaware that their behaviour is biased because of these subtle imprints in their nervous system. I think that meditating and chanting mantras in the 7 basic chakras is good to begin with. Quite soon, if not right in the first few practices, one will see the effect of yoga sadhana.
In my master’s teaching a 14 center model is taken up from the beginning. The total number of chakras that are included in the system number up to 150. All of these centers are not in the torso and head area, though. There are many in the limbs. As far as I know, there are also other systems of yogic meditation that employ more elaborate chakra models in their teachings than the one with 6 or 7 centers. This is very good because not all karmas can be released from the 7 main centers. Not very effectively, at least.
It is my experience that if we talk about the complete karmic purification, then we cannot leave out the subconscious mind. By subconscious mind I refer to a vast storage of karmic files that are stored in each human’s bodymind. I have sometimes compared the subconscious mind into a large room that is filled with thin spider threads. That is how an ordinary persons karmic situation looks like. There are so many of these imprints that it is hard to imagine. However, with a proper yoga method all of the karmas can be uprooted. I know of people who have managed to attain this without tantric means but they have been monastic meditators for long periods of time who have had the opportunity to spend several years in intensive retreat. I on the other hand am a tantric practitioner with a job, family and many other obligations. This being the case, I don’t have even nearly as much time for practice than a monastic has. Therefore I advocate tantric means that concern initiation given by a guru and the tool of mantra and visualisation, in addition to pranayama. If a person is inclined to practice tantric yoga, surely it is much faster way to complete karmic purity than the classic/monastic way. This is my personal opinion.
Body of a jivanmukta[/B]
As I implied before the subtle body (also called energy body or astral body) of man contains hundreds of energy centers, of various sizes. The classic texts give numbers like 72 000 or 720 000 for the total number of channels. This complex of many centers and channels contain all of man’s dualistic ignorance. Specifically, it is below the level of the forehead that the various karmas are stored. There are also practices for the centers at the forehead and crown level but these are not for their purification but just for activating them.
Let’s try to figure out how this congregation of nadis and chakras looks like. Imagine that you sit inside a big balloon that is 2-3 meters (6-9 ft.) in diameter. You are sitting in the center of the sphere. First, imagine that there is one single line or thread (nadi), thin like spider’s thread, that travels from one side of the sphere to the other side of it, going through your body. For now, it doesn’t matter whether it goes from top to down or from left to right etc. Just imagine one line inside the balloon. Then add a second line. Then add a third line, and fourth, and fifth and so on until the whole balloon is filled with these single lines. This is of course a visualised exercise but actually there are so many nadis in your subtle body. This information can be verified in meditation.
Consider the sphere, that is the aura of your personal bodymind, entirely filled with thin lines. A non-yogi’s aura is filled with numerous karmic traces. It could be compared to the nadis being coloured with shades of random colours. We can imagine how the whole complex could be mixed with random colours making a non-harmonious whole. When one advances in nadi and chakra purification, the whole complex becomes more and more clear, until all traces are gone. When karmic purification is brought to maturity, the nadis and chakras can be perceived to be like hollow tubes, like thin tubes made of flexible clear glass. When the nadis and centers become completely clear, the nervous system can also transmit various spiritual energies (skt. shakti) to others naturally.
How it might feel to have an entirely purified nervous system of a liberated person (skt. jivanmukta/arhat)? You can, for example, find a picture of old Ramana Maharishi and feel the energy that is emanating from him. Of course, such people also exist today in physical form.
Body of a paramukta[/B]
Jivanmukta-hood or liberation means that all causes of dualistic delusion have been rooted out or have been seen through in the bodymind of a person. Here is a simple overall explanation for this.
There are two kinds of causes of delusion in man’s mind: the primary cause of delusion and the secondary causes of delusion. The primary cause of delusion is the I-sense that sits in the place of a subject. When you think or say, ”I am angry”, it is the ”I” in front of the sentence that I’m talking about. It is the entity that can be called a subject*. The secondary causes of delusion are the inner objects: mental and emotional stuff . These objects are many and they spring up from the subconscious mind, the karmic storage, that I mentioned before. If you again say, ”I am angry” or ”I am happy”, it is the feeling of anger or happiness that I am talking about. All secondary causes of delusion have some feel of I-ness in them. These two causes can be clearly analysed.
- Please, refer to free e-book ”Awake!” by the author to study this in detail.
So, a person becomes liberated, totally free from existential suffering, when the primary and secondary causes of delusion are seen through. Such a persons mind is lucid and clear at all times. It is just freedom, whether or not there are thoughts or emotions going on in the mind. The thoughts and emotions are not the same as before, they are transparent, not solid entities with a sense of self anymore. There are no existential confusion and mistaken identification. It is just clear and pure. It is all very natural and simple, just as you can see from Ramana’s face.
There is progress after liberation as well. The path doesn’t end up in the liberated state.
Often, when talking about full buddhahood (which is not limited to buddhism by the way) or spiritual masters, words like omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent come up. A good friend of mine who is a disciple of a living avatara, a master who has attained full buddhahood, once joked that his master could turn the Earth into a cube is she wished to. In regards to omnipotence, if I think of my own master and his peers who are many, I am not sure if that is what it means, that the master could actually do whatever he wished to, for example turn Earth into a cube or change all the salt water in the seas go sweet. I don’t think that is what omnipotence means. Here is another view into this matter.
In regards to channels and centers, there is indeed a further progress after the attainment of liberation. Like I said, liberation means that the persons own bodymind becomes fully pure and transparent. It is like a single box that was earlier filled with all kinds of useless stuff but has now been cleared up. Hence, the space inside the box is unobstructed and ever connected. This could be called the unification of the microcosmic energy system.
There is also a unification of the microcosmic energy system with the macrocosmic energy system. By macrocosmic system I refer to everything else, in various forms and dimensions that exists outside the box, the persons own bodymind. Before, we imagined our bodies inside the big balloon filled with thin nadis. You get a picture of these nadis going through your body and extending to all directions and various dimensions of existence, all at the same time. It is like a massive bundle of threads connected to everything alse.
There are perhaps as many of those thin tubes, nadis, as there are physical cells in the human body. The modern science is not uniform of the number of the cells in the human body but nevertheless the most often stated number is several tens of billions of cells. It seems to me that there are nadis for each of the cells in the body. Of course a nadi is made of energy, not of physical matter. The nadi begins from the energetic counterpart of the physical cell. There are so many of those thin tubes of pure transparency and pure light, in our bodies, that is more impressive than any fireworks ever in China. And they do have amazing fireworks in Asia!
Question rises: Where do the nadis actually go? What is there at the other end of the lines? Here is where it gets absolutely beautiful.
The plot thickens[/B]
At the other end of the billions of nadis of each of our bodies are… all other sentient beings. I have all those billions of channels, you have them and all living beings have them. Of course, we as human beings (can) exist simultaneously on a great number of dimensions (which open up from each chakra) at the same time. Animals and vegetation are not capable of this (some animals like dolphins can be). The more advanced you are spiritually, the greater is the scale of dimensions you are aware of. A liberated person can be aware from anything from the very low level of insects and simple animals all the way up to the bodhisattvas who are nearly buddhas.
It is a beautiful orchestration of oneness that is actually taking place everywhere at this enerhgetic level. This is what oneness actually means. When all causes of delusion have been uprooted from the bodymind of a person, one can become aware of this oneness as an actual experience. Then it is not an idea anymore but an actuality.
I know some people have the idea of oneness as some single Being that inlcudes all life forms. Some people call it God or Self (skt. atman/brahman). I think that is OK but I would like to clarify that the oneness that I am talking about could be rather explained as ”interconnectedness” that is devoid of self. From the absolute point of view there is no one, no entity, that this oneness is. It is all an I-less, self-less occurrence made of grace and compassion.
Prayer of compassion[/B]
As all beings are actually connected like this, through the subtle net of billions of energetic threads, it is only natural for us to think and act in terms of compassion, love and equality. Even hatred and other forms of gross suffering are met with this pervaisve sense of love and compassion. Along the centuries many masters have talked about this. It is because of this why in many world religions there are prayers and ceremonies fto increase happiness, harmony and liberation within and among all beings. The underlying reason for compassion is this interconnectedness.
For this reason, I would like to conclude with a simple prayer.
Lokaha Samastaha Muktaha Bhavantu
Lokaha Samastaha Muktaha Bhavantu
Lokaha Samastaha Muktaha Bhavantu
May all beings attain liberation.
May all beings attain liberation.
May all beings attain liberation.[/I]
The author is a professional teacher of non-sectarian tantric yoga in the lineage of his teacher. He is based at Helsinki, Finland but has students in Brasil, France, Singapore and Australia.