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Tantric Teachings:  Direct Recognition in the Heart - It was There All Along

Excerpt from an interview with Igor on Chitheads (Embodied Philosophy) entitled, “Igor Kufayev on Spanda, Quantum Physics, and the Role of the Teacher” (#39) April 7, 2017

Jacob: This is a different teaching than the idea that unity is in the linear future where I am going to experience some enlightenment sometime later, and it’s a sort of transcendent experience where I go outside the world; this is much more of an imminent experience. Is that a good way to describe it? It’s always the most intimate thing that there is and yet — I am thinking of the Pratyabhijna[1] teachings, that it’s not a kind of other thing; rather it’s recognizing that it was something that was there all along. Is it something like this?



Igor: That’s a good start at it! I would say that, sure, in the doctrines such as you have mentioned, the Pratyabhijnahridayam, that direct recognition in the heart, is very much based on bringing the refinement of attention to single pointedness, where that attention is never broken. But at some point, of course, it’s full of amazing revelations; we realize that this reality is here at all times. That reality, as you were building your question, this whole notion that somehow, we will be able to break free from this imposition, from this otherwise called “contracted state of awareness,” or this ignorance, or this not knowing, or this what have you. And of course, we don’t want to skirt here too lightly, because we would need to go back and see what is, in fact, abstracting consciousness from itself.


To add to that, I would like to also mention that many teachings, and many teachers do precisely that. When they are in the presence of those who have been treading the path for quite a while, the first thing they need to do is to break that very cozy, very comfortable expectation, that one day this will happen — and it’s a problem. My only reservation about this method is when that is the only method hammered… and I have noticed that you have a healthy interest — and I can feel it’s on the rise — towards the Tantric teaching itself. And, as you know and have heard, and I am sure many listeners here do as well, that Tantra is rich in expositions.Tantra is rich in methodology, and there are distinctive means, upayas,[2] as they are called in Tantra, “means.”  In other words, different strokes for different folks. It’s like what will work for someone may not necessarily work for another, whose level of consciousness is refined enough. If there is enough of that refinement, very little is needed, just that little touch — a reminder — just that very, very infinitesimally subtle point will do just that. With someone else, a lot of real tool-oriented work is needed. And there is nothing wrong with that either.


If we only adopt that hammering, that highest means, that in no time we were ever anything other than our own selves, and if that does not hold — if it only creates yet another conceptual understanding, no matter how profound that understanding — it’s not serving. It’s becoming — it’s crystallizing an understanding, but I am not experiencing it. A sincere seeker would say: “I love that; I hear you, but I am not experiencing it.” So, the teacher will then lower the plank: go down and, “Okay, let’s try it from here; okay let’s see how this works. This doesn’t work as well; okay, what about here?” This is essentially where the skill in action comes.




Jacob: So, that is interesting. So, what you are saying then is that the crystallization of understanding can actually obstruct the process of realization. Is that what you are saying? And I find that interesting, because from what I see in the Shaiva Tantra tradition is that it is such a conceptually rich tradition. There are obviously many traditions within it, and there are many ways of looking at this Absolute Reality, but it overflows with these kinds of maps.



So sometimes I wonder, in what you are saying, is it tempting for those that are attracted — and I notice it in myself, as an intellectually curious person — I found that people who are attracted to Shaiva Tantra are very intellectually curious. There are a lot of smart people who are teaching in this tradition and some scholars, and so I wonder if you see there being — and I imagine that you do, because you write about it, even in the bio that I’ve read — a danger, or maybe danger is a wrong word, but there is a tendency to kind of let the experience be over-determined by the conceptual framework? And, if that is the case, what are we to do? What is the next step to break ourselves free from that desire to have it all mapped out, and to assume that our experience is going to reflect the map?



Igor: Well, the answer to that is rather simple. It simply requires sincerity. It simply requires sincerity. One does not need to admit it to anyone, but living from direct cognition is very different than living from a concept, or even from a memory. There are many people who have gone through profound breakthroughs, and some have been equipped with enough confidence to step out and become these instruments — at least in their understanding — that they are capable of leading others. But the test here is not what one went through, ever — yesterday or ten, fifty years ago — but where one is and with no respect to time. In other words, as long as it is memory, there is still some work; it belongs to the domain of what is still being perceived within this linearity of time and space. There are breakthroughs; sincere seekers are aplenty out there and they come out sooner or later, and they look for an adept to clarify certain things.









[1] Pratyabhijnahridayam is a classic text from Kashmir Shaivism written in the 11th century by the great sage, Ksemaraja. In Sanskrit, pratyabhijna means “recognition or remembrance” and hrdaya refers to the “heart, the essence or core, the Self;” so the title means “the recognition of the heart.” In his 20 sutras (aphorisms) and commentaries contained in this text, Ksemaraja explains briefly this doctrine of recognition, that in fact “everything is Shiva,” and shows the path to liberation through recognition of what we have forgotten.


[2] Upayas are methods or means to Self-realization in Kashmir Shaivism.  There are four upayas: anavopaya (“inferior means” such as practicing pranayama, meditation, mantra chanting, and yoga), shaktopaya (“medium means” where there must be continuity in the cycle of awareness centered between any two thoughts or any two movements such as between waking and dreaming, between one breath and next breath, etc.), shambhavopaya (“superior means” where the thought-free state is maintained by the Grace of the master), and lastly anupaya (“no means” — direct, immediate realization).


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