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The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 10: Tantra Sadhana

There are people who say that this world of material existence is the only reality; there is nothing beyond this world of objective existence. We call them materialists. There are those who say the world does not exist at all; only God exists in heaven. There are those who feel that God exists and the world also exists; and these people try to bring about an organic relationship between God and the world – making the world, as it were, the body of God Himself. These are viewpoints. Which is the real thing, finally?

That is real which consciousness considers as real. Consciousness is real; it is something that has to be accepted. If consciousness is real – and you cannot regard consciousness as unreal – then whatever consciousness accepts as real, also is real. It can accept even an illusion as real under certain circumstances. You should not say it is wrong. It is an illusion because the consciousness, which is real, accepts it as real. There are people who, in a specific condition of the mind, say that they are seeing something, though you do not see anything. You may say, "There is nothing there," but the mind of the person says, "I see it." There is nothing against the statement: "I see it; that's all. Because I see it, it is real."

The definition of reality is very enigmatic. It can be a conceptual acceptance of a particular notion as very real, or it can actually be a physical, tangible object. Even what you think in your mind is real, because you cannot think unrealities. There is no such thing as unreality, because you will not be able to assert that something is unreal unless you are visualising it before you. When you visualise it, it becomes real. So there is no such thing as an illusory perception. By comparing and contrasting it with another point of view, you say it is illusory or real. When it is perceived, it is real. Animals in the desert run after mirages, thinking that there is actual water and they want to drink it. There is no water in the mirage, but there is no use of saying so. "I see the water there, and therefore I will go for it." If the water in the mirage is not there, who will run after it? So when you perceive a thing, it is real. When you conceive a thing, it also is real.

Taking this issue very realistically, a particular type of spiritual practice has been developed – a very intricate process which analyses threadbare every kind of conscious involvement and does not take anything for granted. This is especially the case where people renounce things and imagine that they have no contact with anything. The idea of renunciation is a very subtle and intriguing issue. What do you mean by having renounced something? You have disconnected yourself from something. But if you are convinced that the thing from which you have disconnected yourself really exists, you have not really disconnected yourself from it. The consciousness of the existence of something will compel you to pay attention to it even if you do not like it. It does not mean that things that you do not like do not exist. And the very fact that they exist is a great problem before you. And every problem in the world is a real problem. There are no such things as unreal problems because if they are unreal, they cannot be problems. So there is no unreal problem. There is only the thing that you think in your mind as a question or problem before you.

The consciousness of something being there in any form whatsoever is a real question. "I have renounced the family and have become a sannyasin." This is an assertion of a particular type of consciousness. But is that consciousness aware of the fact of having renounced something which is already existing? The mind does not believe that the thing from which one has disconnected oneself does not exist. On the one hand, there may be a memory of having lived with something which was, once upon a time, a real object of personal contact. Even if personal, physical contact is not there, conceptional contact will be there. The memory of an object also is an actual contact of consciousness with reality. So, one cannot easily psychologically disconnect from anything, because the memory of that thing persists – and not only that, there may be a subtle lingering of the satisfactions of the life which one led at the time of real physical contact. The memory of the satisfaction of the past is a vicious element entering into the consciousness of actual renunciation. The very consciousness of externality has to be obliterated in order that the renunciation may be complete. We cannot understand what actually we are thinking in our mind, as generally we are accustomed to abrupt thinking and sudden conclusions are arrived at without actually going into the background of our considerations and thoughts. As we are impressed by certain ideas, we consider them as final ideas.

The spiritual path is not a mere imaginary movement along some idealistic lines with no consideration whatsoever in regard to that which the consciousness still accepts as reality. Though you may deny the world idealistically, you will feel it just in front of you. You cannot disconnect the consciousness from its being aware of that thing which you reject as not being there at all. There is a conflict of consciousness in this process. There are circumstances which annoy us every day – like hunger and thirst, heat and cold, etc. Hunger and thirst, heat and cold, do not really exist as objects. They are certain circumstances created in our body due to the molecular structure of the body not being able to cope with the circumstances prevailing outside in the world. When the energy produced by the molecular activity in the body cannot harmonise itself with the energy produced by the sun's heat, we feel that it is very hot. If the molecular energy in the body is more intense in the production of energy than the conditions prevailing outside in the atmosphere, we feel very cold. "It is chilly," we say. There is no heat and cold actually existing outside except the action and reaction taking place between outside conditions and the inner circumstantial structure of the body. So is the case with every kind of experience.

This novel path of spiritual attempt, to which I made reference, takes into consideration all these problems. And every problem has to be taken one by one until it does not exist even to the consciousness which otherwise accepted it as existing. The consciousness should not have even a memory of something existing – otherwise, it is really existing. You should not think that memory is an unnecessary intervention with your experiences. Memory is as active and consequent as actual perception of things. Memory can give you joy. Memory can also bring grief. It is not merely actual physical contact that brings about joy and grief.

Taking all these issues into consideration, a novel path has been chosen by a system of practices known as tantra sadhana. This is a highly misunderstood technique, because we always compare it with some secretive and unintelligible behaviour on the spiritual path, especially as the prosaic perceptions and the ordinary socially conditioned concepts do not go hand in hand with this practice.

Every object, whatever it be – whether you like it or dislike it – is clinging to your consciousness. Just because you do not like something, it does not mean it is outside consciousness. You should not say, "I like only God and I hate the world." Maybe; wonderful! But the object, which is the world that you hate, is sticking to your consciousness as vehemently as that which you love intensely – call it God, or whatever it is. The negative and the positive are actually one operation taking place; they are not two different things. You cannot love without hating, and you cannot hate without loving. They are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. The integral approach that is the true nature of spiritual evolution takes into consideration the pitfalls to which a person can be subjected by going to extremes of thinking, either by way of liking or by way of disliking.

Every action is a psychological operation. It is not a movement of the limbs of the body – the hands and feet. What is actually done with the hands and feet are not to be considered as actions unless the mind considers these movements as actions. The mind is the real doer of everything, and it is the mind that actually practises sadhana. It is not the body. Physical isolation from physical objects does not mean mental isolation from those objects. Like a medical expert diagnosing a disease threadbare from every point of view, the situation of a person in this world is to be analysed threadbare before one takes to spiritual practice.

What is it that you want, finally? You cannot answer this question abruptly. You will be stunned by the very question itself. What is it that you want, finally? You want everything; there is nothing that you do not want. Even those things which some people reject as unnecessary may be very necessary for you, and what you consider as unnecessary may be necessary for somebody else. The objects of the world, or any human context in society, is not to be judged unilaterally from one's own particular point of view; the other side of the matter also needs to be taken into consideration. What you think about things and people is not the only important thing. What things and people think about you is also equally important. It is a mutual give-and-take policy of psychological action.

The tantra technique actually is a diagnostic method of handling human passions and prejudices which sometimes persist, even at the penultimate state of spiritual experience. You have heard of tapasvins who did great austerity and had powers of some kind, but the subliminal impulses would not leave them. For instance, intense passion and intense anger, and greed also, oftentimes, are demonstrated in the lives of certain tapasvins whom you can read about in the Puranas, epics, etc. You should not be in a hurry when you take to the spiritual path. The first step has to be taken very carefully, and the second step should not be taken until the first step is firm and there is no chance of your regressing. Quickly you go, and quickly you fall, also.

The conditions of life are neither good nor bad. This is the dictum of tantra sadhana. The goodness and the badness with which you associate objects are mental judgments that arise on account of positioning the things in the world in a particular context, forgetting that they can be positioned in another context also. They say, "Dirt is matter out of place." When matter is not in the proper context, it looks dirty. A good thing can be an abominable thing – like cow dung, for instance. It is a very nice, beautiful thing in the field which is tilled by the farmer. He will not consider cow dung as a dirty thing. It is very necessary and wonderful, beautiful and highly valued – because without that, the crop cannot grow. But throw the same cow dung on your dining table. How will it look? What was good? The context will determine the nature of the object. A paddy plant growing in a rose garden is considered to be a weed, and you pluck it out. A rose plant growing in a paddy field is a weed, and you pluck it out. So what is actually a weed? It depends upon the conditions in which a particular thing is located.

The tantra dictum is that you should not define things from your point of view, but define things from their point of view. When you love a thing, transfer yourself to the thing that you love and then see what happens to you. You cannot love yourself as an object. All love is directed to something which is other than one's own self. You do not run after your own self; you run after that which is other than yourself. Suppose you transfer your consciousness to that which you intensely love – your love will immediately cease, because love has become the very thing which you are. It is the same case with that which you hate. Transfer your consciousness to that which you hate. The hate becomes yourself only, and you cannot hate yourself. The transference of consciousness to the conditions – whatever they are – is one of the techniques prescribed.

But it is humanly impossible to think like this, because the habits of social involvement and psychological obsession prevent you from taking a liberal view of anything in this world. God has not created evil anywhere; otherwise, He would be the author of the evil of things. Do you say that God is of that nature? If God is not the creator of evil, then who created evil? Are you the creator of evil? Then you are to be judged for that. Who are you detesting when you perceive an evil object? Are you detesting God who created it? Are you detesting yourself because you perceive it? You cannot even answer this question. Your mind is in confusion. That is evil which is totally disharmonious with a particular condition that is prevailing. A snake does not die though it has within itself a tremendous poison which can kill anybody. If the poison is so deadly, the snake should also die. So is the case with a scorpion's sting. It carries a terrible thing in its own body, but it does not die from it.

The identity of consciousness with a particular situation is the solution for that problem. You should not consider anything as totally outside you. The world is not outside you; this has to be remembered always. You are involved in the world. As you are involved in the world, you are involved with everything in the world, whatever it be – that which you like and that which you dislike. The power of meditation is so intense and capable of achieving such miracles that the problems vanish when you yourself become the problem.

The doctrine of the tantra is: that by which ordinarily you fall down – that very thing, when it is handled in a different way, becomes the cause of your rise. There is a poetic sentence, beautiful, worth remembering: "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." Misplaced virtue can lead to your fall. Properly understood situations which other people consider as sin, may cause the rising of your personality. There is no sin and no virtue because they are, again, evaluations from your point of view about a thing which looks like this or that. Who asked you to evaluate from your own point of view? The view must be from the other point of view, the thing which you are visualising as being outside. What does God experience in this world?

Previously I mentioned the Virat-consciousness. The Universal Being visualises everything. Does it also see what you see with your eyes – all the dirt and the ugliness, corruption, stupidity and so on? Does the Virat-swarupa perceive it? It is itself that, so there is no question of perceiving it. The evaluation of things ceases when the things themselves become the person who evaluates it. The teeth may bite the tongue, but you do not file a case in the court against the teeth because they have cut a part of the tongue. If somebody bites your tongue, you will file a case against him. But if you bite, it is all right. So, you are the criterion. The identity of consciousness with any situation is the solution for that object. Actually, meditation is nothing but the identity of consciousness with a situation. The point is that you should not exclude any situation, so that the mind may not run here and there. The distraction of the mind that you feel in meditation is due to the fact that you are isolating other conditions from the condition that you have chosen for the purpose of meditation. This is the tantric doctrine.

You will be terrified. Therefore, nobody tells you that such a thing is possible, because tantra is a way of thinking which is totally different from the human way of thinking. You may call it a redundant way of thinking, a cosmic way of thinking, or whatever you like. But nobody is accustomed to this way of thinking. The heart will break. The brain will stop thinking and you can become crazy if you persist in thinking in this manner. Therefore, the Tantra Shastra is not given to an ordinary individual. It is never taught. It is usually called the great secret practice. Why is it considered secret? This is because it is akin to a formula for manufacturing an atom bomb. You cannot go on telling everybody the formula for making an atom bomb. This is not done because the consequences would be disastrous.

Therefore, various stages of initiation have been prescribed in the learning of this technique of tantra. It starts with ordinary ritual which is acceptable to common sense and to emotion. They call it vedachara – the first stage in tantra sadhana. Vedachara is a ritualistic mode of approach to reality. You gesticulate physically in the worship of a particular object or a condition, and go on accustoming yourself to that object by emotionally identifying yourself with everything that the object is. That is actually what you do in worship.

The next stage is called vaishnavachara. The rituals come down and recede to some extent in vaishnavachara, which is the path of devotion. The path of devotion frees itself from the details of the ritualistic practice of vedachara. The next stage is saivachara, which is supposed to be the path of knowledge without any emotion attached to it – with pure understanding, as it is. There are several more stages, the details of which I am not going into here because I am not initiating you into Tantra Shastra. I am just mentioning to you that there is a total way of adjusting yourself to the circumstances of life.

You will be a great success. To all things you are adjusted perfectly, whether it be a boss or a subordinate, a cook or a driver, or whatever is around you, physically, psychologically, socially, politically, economically – any kind of adjustment that is called for. A dexterous spiritual practitioner is capable of adjusting his personality to every condition. He can go up to the heights of genius or come down to the level of a little child. A great spiritual hero can behave like a child and be very loving to a little, crawling baby. He can be a lover of great learning and professorial knowledge, and he can be a genius in his own personal capacity. He will not stick to one condition. All things are his conditions. All people are the stages of his own development, through which he has passed or through which he has to pass in future. Thus he becomes a lover of all things. To put it in the words of the Bhagavadgita, sarva-bhuta-hite ratah (B.G. 12.4), he becomes a lover of every condition in life. To bring your memory back to what I said previously, think as God thinks. There is no boss, there is no driver, there is no cook, there is no this, there is no that in the Virat vision. They are all blended together into a consciousness of oneness.

This is achieved gradually, stage by stage, through tantra. It has never been understood by anybody. It has been only misunderstood, because of the distance that obtains between the normal way of thinking and this way of thinking. That which is impossible to accept for the common mind becomes an abominable thing, impossible to imagine. Things which are not at all acceptable become non-separate from your own being when those things which you consider as external are evaluated from your own point of view. A Guru is necessary in this practice. No one can independently read a book and go on with this practice, because it is dynamite which will burst in your face if you touch it.

Purity of mind – dispassion in a true sense of the term – is necessary before you step onto this path. If you have submerged desires, potential longings which you have brushed aside into the subconscious, they will rise up with tremendous velocity and break your personality. You should not touch this subject unless your mind is pure. What is meant by the mind being pure? A hidden impulse that contradicts your aspiration in a particular direction is the impurity in the mind. The impurity does not necessarily mean what people consider as dirty. An evaluation in the mind which cannot be commensurate with the nature of the explanation you are holding before you – that is the evil you see; that is the impurity.

The psychological adjustment called for on this path is total, to say the least; and, no one knows what total thinking is. When you think, there is an object of thought. Since the subject that thinks and the object that is thought about are not two different things but are only two forces of a single situation, it is necessary for you to consider that particular aspect also, where the subject does not think the object – a situation is thinking both the subject and the object. This is the synthesis of the two contraries of what you call the subject and the object. You cannot do that. Nobody can do that easily, because you are either the subject or the object. The synthesis between the two is unthought-of. You can never imagine that you cannot think an object unless you are involved in it. So the subjectivity is included a little bit in the object also, and the objectivity is also included in the subject. Pure subject and pure object do not exist. Otherwise, they would be severed from each other and no one would know that the object exists.

That there is an element of the female in every man, and every female has an element of the male, is something well known to people. Total femininity and total masculinity do not exist. They attract each other because of the element of each present in the other. People with characteristics that are pure and unmixed with characteristics of the other gender cannot attract each other. If man is only man, and woman is only woman, there is no attraction. There is something connecting them – which is the element of feminine nature in a man, and vice versa, the element of male in a female. This is to say, everything has some connection with everything else. Total isolation is unthinkable. And if you make the mistake of imagining that you can totally disassociate yourself from family, relations, your property, etc., and go to meditate in Uttarkashi, you may be a failure because your mind will harass you by compelling you to cogitate on the conditions that prevailed earlier – at least by memory – and a longing will persist even if the physical contact is absent.

The Bhagavadgita warns us that a person who physically disconnects himself or herself from objects of enjoyment, but mentally conceives them, is a hypocrite, because love is a mental action; it is not merely based on physical contact. Unless the mind operates, action does not take place. There are some beautiful verses near the beginning of the third chapter of the Bhagavadgita: "Do not make mistakes. Do not be hasty. Know yourself first. Do not misjudge yourself. Do not underestimate yourself. Do not overestimate yourself either. Know exactly what you are." Often you cannot know what you are. You are under the pressure of prejudices. This is why the Guru is necessary – to tell you what kind of person you are. Your problems are yourself only. You have created the problems. God has not created them. You cannot even impute these problems to other people, although everyone says that others are the cause of their suffering.

I am giving you the information that there is such a thing as this kind of spiritual practice. It is not that you will be able to understand it, nor will you be able to practise it, since it is a highly advanced method where you have a total vision of all things in the world, and from that point of view only you take a first step. Even the initial step is a total step. It is not a partial, finite step you are taking. They are wholes which operate in every step that you take along the spiritual path. The difference is between the lower whole and the higher whole, but not between two different things. No fraction is allowed in the spiritual practice. It is a whole practice that you are engaged in, though it is an initial whole.

How will you think these things? A Guru's perpetual presence is called for so that you may not slip and fall and break your legs. The tantra sadhana is a great information before you, which is startling; and I am mentioning this to you because I wish to be complete and not give you some fractional information of this side and that side of spiritual practice.

I made reference to purity of mind. You cannot understand what it actually means. Abandoning certain things which you consider as bad may be considered as purity of mind. I have already told you to be careful in judging things. What are the bad things in the world? Can you tell me what the bad things are? Make a list of them. You can never make a list of the bad things in the world. You will be flabbergasted even to think like that. You also cannot make a list of the good things in the world, because a very good thing may be a bad thing in another circumstance, and a bad thing may be a good thing in another circumstance. So total thinking is taking into account both aspects of the situation into the spiritual practice. You move as God Himself moves, as He would move towards His own Self-realisation. This is a completeness that characterises every stage of spiritual practice.

I have told you almost everything concerning devotion to God – bhakti. But I have added some more information so that it may be accentuated by a greater strength, information culled from other ways of thinking – philosophical, even argumentative, physical, psychological, and spiritual. I feel satisfied that I have given you whatever I wanted to give you, and whatever remains afterwards will be an expatiation of the very same things that I have told you in brief. I have gone very fast in my discourses in order to give you brief principles involved in various types of spiritual practice. More elaborate considerations of these brief statements will be called for, to which I shall move by advancing on matters which I have not touched fully, but touched only briefly, so that in the remaining sessions of this course you will have something easier than these hard things that I told you in a strict, logical form, up to this time. From here on I will abandon this process of thinking and teaching, and make it more easy, friendly and pleasant for you. This is what I have to tell to you today.