What’s Tantra Yoga – An evening with Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, the founder of Agama Yoga.
Swami Vivekananda Saraswati gave a free talk on Tantra Yoga on Oct 22 2008 in Vancouver, Canada. I really enjoyed the 2.5 hours of Swami’s monologue, followed by Q&A. I found it to be very enlightening. His presence was very engaging and very down to earth. At the end he was very humble and refused applause. I’m looking forward to two weeks of workshops with him.
The following are my notes from his presentation, written through my perception filters, but otherwise uncensored.
The World of Duality
First Swami presented the duality of the world, which all religions and philosophies agree upon. One side of the world is a non-manifested reality (what mystics talk about) and the other is manifested (what we see and live) . Depending on the language, religion and teaching this pair is known as: nirvana/samsara, transcendental reality/eminent reality, spirit/nature, emptiness/fullness, Brahman/Maya, Shiva/Shakti. Most of us live in samsara, the lower, manifested world, and everybody earns to reach nirvana, the higher, non-manifested world.
Next comes the part that different religions/philosophies disagree upon. And that is the way to reach nirvana. The majority of teachings side with Vedantic way of reality (also known as classical spirituality, or ascetic view). In Vedantic language the two sides of the coin are Brahman (high) and Maya (low). The main postulates of Vedantic view on these two “worlds” are:
- There is no interaction or connection between the two worlds
- In order to reach nirvana one must leave Maya behind
It’s said that we are like a moth which is attracted to the light (which represents our desire). We are born into this world, which is like a prison, which we can’t escape. You could make the prison cell nicer by having all kinds of decorations but you are still in the prison cell. And then if you believe into reincarnations, you repeat the same cycle again and again, going from birth to death, choosing to be in the prison. It’s like a ground hog day.
Everything is an illusion, like in the Matrix movie. All stimulations that affect our senses are simple electrical charges…
Since we are 99% material and 1% spiritual, the solution therefore must be to stop doing material things completely and start doing spiritual things. That means our body is now an enemy, and therefore you must kill your body, through fasting, not sleeping, not having sex, and just eating a bear minimum to allow body to survive so that you could carry on the spiritual quest.
Examples of such practices include Zen meditation, Buddhist and Vedanta meditations. There are all masculine way of looking at the world.
Hatha Yoga on the other hand is forbidden for Vedantic practitioners because it works on improving and nourishing our bodies. Hatha Yoga is feminine, because feminine energy is about nourishing.
The Hills Are Hills And The Valleys Are Valleys
Next Swami talked about those enlightened coming back to earth as teachers. He mentioned the three stages of enlightenment using a Chinese proverb:
Before you have the experience, the hills are hills and the valleys are valleys; and during the experience, they are no longer hills and valleys; but once you return, again once more the hills are hills and the valleys are valleys.
So those enlightened come back to the world of illusion, only this time they don’t get entangled in it, because they have transcended it. Back to the prison example mentioned earlier, is that they come back to the prison, but this time as a visitor, rather than an inmate.
The point Swami was making is that even though everybody tries to leave this world, once they get across the line, they want to come back and play. (Probably alluding that one doesn’t really need to leave in first place)
What is Tantra
And now it’s time to transition to Tantra.
Quantum physics proved in relativity theory that observer affects the object that’s being observed, and therefore spirit and matter are interconnected and are not separate. They simply transition into each other.
Side note: Tibetan Buddhism is actually tantric, and therefore heretical to classical Buddhism.
In Tantra one can reach spirit (Nirvana) through matter (Maya).
Examples of Tantric Yogas: Hatha, Kundalini and Laya Yogas.
Tantra means “warp”, “web”, “holographic world” and it deals with all things manifested.
Hatha Yoga is about healing, but utmost it’s about enlightenment.
Body healing is just the first stage and one must not stop there, and go beyond that.
Emotions can be destructive, but if used correctly can be a huge source of energy and life. One needs wind to sail and without the wind (emotions) you won’t get far.
Finally, while the mind can be an obstacle to a spiritual development, it doesn’t have to be the case. As long as our minds don’t rule us, minds are actually very useful tools when used correctly.
Unlike Vedanta, which is about escaping and running away from this world, Tantra is about using the manifested as stepping stones, one just needs to know where to look.
Swami uses hot chocolate to demonstrate his point. Yes, hot chocolate creates desire. But it’s all about how you use that desire. If you gobble up those hot chocolates without moderation it’ll be harmful. However if you really slow down and be present and enjoy the experience of slowly savouring the drink, you will experience an ecstasy close to an orgasm (see my article: Chocolasm 101 – The Chocolate Orgasm for Men).
It’s all about awareness and mindfulness, which allows to feel the spirit behind the matter. The same experience can be achieved via a sexual orgasm, watching a sunset or eating an apple. It’s all about “how” and not “what”.
It’s like dancing – if it’s done mindfully, one can find the spirit through dancing. For example Sufi dancers after spinning for 3 hours can get to the supreme ecstasy state.
In Tantra you worships the nature and the nature connects you to the spirit. Tantra therefore is very close to shamanic practices, which is all about nature.
Tantra and Sexuality
While sexuality is just a part of Tantra, it’s a very important part.
All Vedantic traditions shun sexuality, since again, it has to do with nature. And in nature polarity is everywhere, everyone and everything has sex, including atoms, which have plus and minus charges.
The main issue with sex is that it’s very very very powerful. It’s like if surfing a normal wave is a great experience, imagine being able to surf a tsunami wave.
This has a political implication – it’s hard to rule people who have a lot of energy. Modern sexual culture is about making people obedient, since depleted man are easy to tame.
Sexual energy is a source of all creative things. Most people are most creative through their youth, especially childhood, because their sexual energy is not depleted yet.
According to all yogic teachings, sexual energy is finite and once used completely we die.
Normal “animal” sex is depleting — vitality is lost during ejaculation. Tantric sex is the opposite — it’s about creating vitality without any depletion, and loss of sexual energy.
There are two ways of dealing with this:
- Celibate (or at least practice moderation)
- Have non ejaculatory sex, with multiple orgasms as taught through Tantric teaching.
Most women don’t ejaculate anyway, but they lose their sexual energy through long menstrual cycles, and here Tantra helps to shorten those cycles and lose less sexual energy.
Moving from “animal sex” which is either about relief or procreation has deeper repercussions for intimate relationships. Once we leave behind the sex-for-a-relief practice, one can only stay in a relationship if a deeper connection is created. In such relationship one finds true unconditional love – you will want to be with your partner no matter what, spending time gazing into each other eyes, finding deeper intimacy, playing and exploring together.
Tantra love is a way of developing an ultimate relationship, whose purpose is to reach an enlightenment as a couple…
It’s useless reading about how Tantric sex works – the only way to get it is to experience it.
The other advantage for women is that no unhealthy contraceptives are necessary anymore.
And then a foray into statistics of an average person:
- An average man ejaculates in 5-6 minutes after the penetration
- It takes 30 minutes for an average women to reach a full body (non-clitoral) orgasm
So the “animal sex” can’t satisfy a women, and various workarounds are used in the best case, in the worst case she is left unsatisfied.
Swami talks about an average man like an airplane that’s taking off the ground to just have its fuel tank explode half way up to the sky…
Latin proverb says: “Omne animal post coitum triste.”, which means “all animals are sad after sex“.
Sex is a huge force that can be very destructive or very creative, depending on how it’s used.
What is Tantra Yoga
Tantra Yoga is about using asanas (postures) to elevate our consciousness, rather than just doing body stretching exercises.
Since we are all born already perfect, Tantra Yoga sets no transformation goals, though as one practices it major transformations happen from within. For example if one can feel that trees are alive, one will relate to trees in a very different way, and therefore the transformation is subtle but obvious.
Swami finished his enlightening talk by saying that:
Tantra Yoga is like Yoga with Hot Chocolate