The Tantric Tradition and how Shakti Ensures Knowledge will be Saved and Passed On.

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: So, what do you think — it’s interesting that you bring up the pointedness; I have never heard anyone describe it like that; the pointedness of Tantra versus traditions like Zen or Taoism. Are you speaking of things like the Zen koan, where it’s like you’re entering that emptiness through a kind of paradox, like a paradoxical tool? Is that what you mean when you say, “a roundabout way of getting to that place” — is that what you are describing?

 

Igor: Well, without being afraid to generalize, and we will allow ourselves to bring it in a moment to show that Tantra also has that element at its highest, perhaps most refined expositions. But yes, what I mean also here, is that additional element of artistry that Zen is so known for. The additional element of artistry here, in the sense of artfulness. In other words, it’s not just about grokking it. It has these Zen-like, beautiful ways of how to cut through — disarming — I mean the whole culture of Zen is founded on extremely refined concepts that obviously came from India through China. It’s that Dyana versus Ch’an versus Zen.[1] It’s the etymology of transformation of the same term.


Zen is a culture of meditation, but it got this additional value by the time it reached its refinement in Japan, which some scholars consider also that that is why the decadence of the teaching took place. There are different perspectives, but the emphasis was more on form — what you dress in, how you sit, the place that was built for it. It is all so meticulous. It’s so demanding! I very often take the mickey out of it in my own immersions, in my own retreats, so as to loosen up people’s attention to that which could be considered as an entourage — but for some people this is so attractive! 


To me what is interesting in particular approaches in Zen is that unexpected element, like the artist’s way, or the way of the tea master. You see, it is being able to improvise; it’s in the improvisation. You can set everything up, but then the tea master comes and throws a bit of dust here and breaks something, because the lines are too straight, too symmetrical; we need to bend something here. It’s reminding us constantly of that embrace of the permanence and impermanence, and dance — that dance that Zen is also that fusion of Buddhist ideals coming into China by Bodhidharma,[2] which was infused with very rich Taoistic traditions. And that of course is a unique gift.


So that non-linearity here, you mentioned the koan, it’s only one aspect. There are many aspects. The passage, the transmission itself in Zen is very peculiar; Zen stories are full of the stories about the spiritual fools — fools! The same as in Sufism — the scholar versus the holy fool from the south, who in the end gets it all without trying. You know, he is washing the dishes; he is outside chopping wood, carries water, rides the donkey, right? The scholar is there sitting in the class reciting, wearing nice robes, but in the end, the mantle goes to the one who was doing seemingly mundane tasks. These stories are there obviously to teach us something, to show us something, the paradoxical nature of it all.


And so, although I did say that Tantra, the Tantric tradition, is very precise, what I meant by that, is it’s very precise in the way that it dealt with the spiritual anatomy — the term that I use very often for the anatomy of the process — which of course incorporates and includes all this that we know today about the pathways, the pranic[3] pathways, the “Highway to God.” Of course, this is accompanied by this whole conglomerate of pranic pathways — it’s a science in its own right! And there are many, many different accounts and schools left — some consider them to be fragmented — and it’s very difficult to make sense out of it.


Therefore, this is where the role of the adepts comes in — to hold all this within themselves, because all this knowledge needs to be continuously verified — lived through. Otherwise it will become just this encyclopedic, huge library. The true knowledge was never burned and never drowned. We know that historically. The Alexandrian Library,[4] though it perished, the knowledge survived. Arabs translated it, took it, and then passed it on to spread the Renaissance.


It’s quite a beautiful analogy here, how Shakti[5] makes sure that that knowledge will be saved — in the heart of the sincere, or the eager adept — and that knowledge will be passed on. Otherwise, we will lament, “Oh my God, we lost all these works of the great Greek philosophers of the pre-Socratic era! All this glory is lost…” and here it is, resurfaced through the work of Plotinus. There are so many different ways this process is reassured, but above all else — through the heartbeats of those who are alive and kicking now.

 

 

Jacob: You know, I haven’t felt that in so strong a way as I do now.  I, relatively recently, picked up chanting the Shri Rudram[6] as a part of my practice, and I have these moments when I am chanting it, where I really feel that this is not something I elected to do. It’s not something that I chose as a part of my practices. I experience it almost like the Shakti is preserving through my faculties — preserving my small, tiny part in continuing the aliveness of this tradition through my own personal practice. So, I love that idea of the Shakti moving the wisdom where it can be preserved, based on the conditions of whatever is going on!

 

Igor: Completely! What you are touching upon now, is that the real heart of all teachings is in the oral transmission. What does it mean, an oral transmission? Why is oral transmission so important? “Oral” here means “vocalized,” and someone obviously partakes in that. Someone hears that. It has an additional value here. Oral traditions, we could perhaps speculate — we will leave that to scholars — that all ancient teachings were oral traditions for quite some time, until the necessity arose to pass them on, or ensure that they will not die somehow — because of this conflict, that conflict. Perhaps because certain teachings needed to go underground, maybe because of the geopolitical situations in different parts of the world where this necessity arose, then these teachings began to be written down.


refresh this out of that vantage point, so they have this possibility to be vocalized and heard. Now, you may recite it for yourself, so, who will be the hearer here? Obviously, yourself! You partake in that; that suffices. Whether you are alone, in the company of a hundred people, with ten people or just for yourself — we can will,We already know that is certainly the case when it comes to the traditions born on the Indian subcontinent. The Vedas[7] were all recited. All Vedic[8] sciences were recited — and recited from heart-to-heart — literally. So, when we partake of something which is spoken, or when we ourselves recite or vocalize something which is otherwise written, we bring this into that gross sphere of existence, and enliven that existence with these sounds — as well as, if you of course go from here into the real subtlety of this — that it is for the sake of the one who takes tremendous joy in experiencing these vibrations, even on a cellular level.


In addition, there is this Tantric understanding which belongs to the levels of speech. It’s this knowledge of vak.[9] And it is this vak which is essentially the most ancient term for Shakti, the most ancient term for Kundalini Itself, that vak represents. And it’s that which stands for the sound, for the word, for that sacred Word — “In the beginning was the Word…” and so forth, right? It is true for all traditions. In the beginning there was this sound, pure sound. Sound was emitted, and the emission of that sound is a perpetual affair. It’s not something that was emitted at the time of the Big Bang, and we are hearing the echo of that — although at some point we nearly bought that — we were very excited that this could be the story of our Universe, that we live in a byproduct of some explosion.


Now there are other interesting possibilities that are being entertained, that it never came into existence — simply, it perpetually comes into existence, is perpetually being sustained and perpetually being reabsorbed. And this is so fascinating to me! This is really fascinating ground, where again this ancient wisdom and most cutting-edge findings and breakthroughs in sciences are now closing the circle — that broken circle, that very important connection. Because, as my teacher used to say, spirituality has to be verified through scientific knowledge. We can’t just live, taking it all on trust just because it was valid then — it must be lived and be valid today. Perhaps this is the only reason why sacred knowledge is always in need of being re-evaluated, for the necessity of time, and there will always be those who will come and re-evaluate that knowledge for the necessity of time — because that is in the very nature of Consciousness.


So, this is why at some point that people might be so taken by the euphoria that all this is available — “Internet, Google, Shmoogle… at the tip of our fingers we’ve got it all!” We have the most amazing access to anything now — the most obscure Sanskrit term, you’ve got it! You want to learn Tantra on any level? You’ve got it! It is all out there. Anything — Kabbalah — there are no secrets left, as it were, right? And yet, we live at a time when we’re still following that same kind of paradigm — that we can all get it somehow by leapfrogging, somehow outsmarting this whole process. I’m quite happy for the opportunities like this to speak about it, and that attempts are being made in many different corners now — with peers in this job, to rehabilitate, like “the dust has to settle,” — the dust of all this euphoria, this high. There were the sixties, there were the seventies, then it all settled down a little bit. And now, nonduality is settling down. This is what I feel, and why Tantra is on the rise and Kashmir Shaivism as well —everyone wants to add it to their CV, because it is just cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

 

[1] Dyana versus Ch’an versus Zen refers to the long-evolving mystical tradition that exists within Buddhism; it began as “Dyana” which is a Sanskrit word meaning meditation, where the mind flows in an unbroken focus toward an object. This then became “Ch’an” when it was brought to China by a monk named Bodhidharma, and when it spread to Japan, it became “Zen.”


[2] Boddhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived in the 5th or 6th century, has been credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism — Chan, from the Sanskrit word, dhyana, “meditation — to China, and his teachings and practices centered on meditation and the Lankavatara Sutra.


[3] Pranic as related to prana, which in the context of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) and Vedic Science, is the subtle essence of air.  It is the life force that animates everything; it is in the air we breathe, the food we eat, it is in our bodies, and it is the master intelligence behind all psychophysiologic functioning.


[4] Alexandrian Library or the Library of Alexandria in Egypt was said to be the ancient world’s greatest archive of knowledge, and the mystery of how and why it was burned has never been solved. The Royal Library of Alexandria was founded in 283 BC by Pharaoh Ptolomy II Soter, It has been estimated that the Library of Alexandria held over half a million documents from Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and many other nations.


[5] Shakti is the divine cosmic power which projects, maintains, and dissolves the universe. She is that mother goddess, that feminine divine force that manifests to destroy evil forces and restore balance.  In Hinduism, every God has his Shakti, without whose energy he has no power.  For example, Lord Vishnu’s Shakti is Lakshmi and Lord Shiva’s power is Parvati. 


[6] Shri Rudram is a Vedic hymn dedicated to Rudra — an aspect of Lord Shiva — which comes from the Yajur Veda. It is said that chanting this text is a form of worship which invokes Lord Shiva's various attributes and aspects.


[7] Vedas are a large body of revealed texts composed in Sanskrit, which constitute the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.  These sacred Hindu scriptures include the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atarva Veda.


and Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda,[8] Vedic tradition, also known as Vedism, ancient Hinduism, Brahmanism and Vedic Brahmanism is the historic predecessor of modern Hinduism, stemming from the Vedic period which existed in northern India from approximately 1750 to 500 BCE.  The Vedic tradition is one of the most ancient surviving spiritual and mystical traditions known, and advocates realization of the Divine as the ultimate Truth, and living a pious and virtuous life in the world. Its name is derived from the collections of sacred texts known as the Vedas, a large body of revealed texts composed in Vedic Sanskrit, which constitute the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.  These sacred Hindu scriptures include the Atarva Veda.


[9]Vak is the primordial Word, and its root means “to speak.” In Tantra, it is said that all objects of the Universe are created by sound, thus the Universe came about by the primordial throb.
 

 

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