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Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, is a tantric master who has lectured and taught worldwide for more than a quarter of a century. Panditji (his title as a scholar) teaches the “Essence of Living Tantra” in his current national lecture tour and spoke recently at Moksha Yoga.
Panditji began the lecture and meditation workshop with a chant, then launched into an energized and entertaining speech. He explained that his current tour is a concentration of a six-lecture series he offered in 1997 and again in 2012. That series, “Living Tantra,” covered topics ranging from the secret of tantric rituals to forbidden tantra, kundalini , and more.
He first spoke of tantra’s reputation in India as black magic, saying that when he was a child in Northern India, people said that a tantric man would carry you away in a bag if you misbehaved. He explained that when the Dark Ages descended on India , certain families preserved tantra. Outside of these families, regular people thought tantra was about eating your feces or sexual activities. Panditji was born into one of the families where Sanskrit and tantric philosophy were actively studied. He became interested in tantra by observing his father and by reading books.
Panditji defined tantra as the central body of any path of sadhana , or spiritual quest. Tantra constitutes the core of yoga philosophy, metaphysics, and practice, and is the most complete, most comprehensive, most integrated system. He said that the main tantric text is the Yoga Sutras , just as it’s the most authoritative text on Hatha yoga even though only four or five sutras talk about asana (Hatha yoga postures).
He went on to say that the tantric worldview is that it is a great privilege to be born into this world. People are suffering from pain, fear, and guilt, but life is not a punishment. The purpose of gaining knowledge is to accept the world as one of sat chit ananda ; sat means pure being, chit means consciousness, and ananda means bliss.
A simple tantric principle is that the laws that rule our inner world also rule our outer world. There is unique shakti , or power, in everything and everyone. Our inability to recognize the unique shakti in everyone brings us to poverty in our inner world, which is reflected in our outer world.
Panditji said that according to tantra, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the objects of the outer world. Just be respectful of your own tendencies. If you enjoy having a car, have it. If you feel cars are what give you joy in life, then have two cars, one for the weekend and one for the weekdays. What he emphasized is to not undermine your capacity. Don’t let anyone else influence you. Know that life is precious; enjoy life at its fullest without forgetting its higher purpose. Use everything as a means. Tantra is a liberal way to say “spiritual quest.” It’s not a path of indulgence, but a path of freedom in the world, not from the world.
Panditji recommended we look at the worlds inside and outside of ourselves and make an assessment. In which world are we stronger? Many of us are better at getting to know the world outside ourselves. In tantra, we make a bridge from the inside world to the outside world so we can enjoy it without falling prey to it.
According to tantra, our human life is vast, and all our potential can be customized into two worlds: jyan and shakti , or knowledge and power. Every part of our body and mind is filled with infinite wisdom and power, but most of us are unaware of it. The totality of our shakti is called kundalini, which is dormant and not available to us. When it’s awakened, it’s called prana, or the principle of movement, that which breathes in us and makes every cell of our body breathe. Together, kundalini and prana are consciousness and the totality of our being. When we are not aware of this totality, we aren’t able to make the most of our lives. The purpose of practice is to awaken shakti to make us more powerful and creative and to achieve life’s purpose: to find fulfillment and freedom.
How we find freedom and fulfillment is up to us. Whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert, we cannot live in isolation. We can’t separate ourselves from the world outside of us. Our material existence can’t be separated from our inner existence. True fulfillment lies in integrating every aspect of our being. There are thousands of tantric techniques that have evolved into three schools to help us achieve integration: 1) kaula is a ritualistic school that uses external objects such as herbs, minerals, yantrasand mandalas (geometric diagrams and figures), and visualizations to help us find inner peace; 2) samaya emphasizes the meditative path without dependency on the outside world; 3) mishra combines ideas from the first two schools to let our external world be infused with our inner light. The mishra school is the easiest to begin with in our modern times. Ultimately, our goal is to discover samaya.
Panditji spoke about shoka, a condition caused by doubt fear, anger, worry, guilt, regret, and shame that creates an enormous burden on our hearts and minds. This burden prevents us from understanding the things that are precious and meaningful to us. Panditji stressed the importance of having a clear, calm, tranquil mind free from all doubt so that we can explore anything we want .
Every tantric practice takes a lot of time, he said. You can’t practice everything, especially if you have another practice. He advised using your current practice as a doorway to go further. The yogic aspect of tantric sadhana (practice) is where you gain access to your own dimension. Then, he instructed, acquire a clear, calm, tranquil mind to enter your own heart. Know this sacred space by its own intrinsic nature, vishoka , free from doubt, fear, and anger. Once there, our comprehension of the outer world becomes clearer.
Panditji ended by leading us through a meditation practice called prana dharana . He said that if we practice it daily, we will gain the inner strength to become master of the worlds inside of us and outside of us. This practice removes the veil from the heart. Then, he concluded, “You can do whatever you want. Find freedom in the world, not from the world.”
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait is the author of 14 books and holds two PhDs. Himalayan Institute (HI) in Honesdale, PA is a non-profit organization whose varied activities and programs exemplify the spiritual heritage of mankind that unites East and West, spirituality and science, and ancient wisdom and modern technology. HI is also a home for the Sri Vidya lineage of tantra. Sri Vidya is said to be the most sublime and rewarding of all tantric paths that leads to a direct experience of ourselves as a wave of beauty and bliss arising from the ocean of pure consciousness.
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