“Just as one who sees something out of the ordinary experiences a feeling of amazement, so the feeling of amazement in enjoying contact with the various manifestations of knowable reality is continually produced in this great yogin with the whole wheel of the senses increasingly revealed, motionless, disclosed, by virtue of penetrating into its most intimate nature, the compact union of ever-renewed consciousness and wonder, extreme, extraordinary.”
Ksemaraja, commentary on Śivasutra, 1.12, quoted from Torella, 2012
“All wisdoms have celebrated the instant, the wise man leaves aside memory; he has few projects, makes himself at home in the present, inhabits its differential.”
Michel Serres, The Five Senses
I’ve been taking this foray into “heart practice” slowly, beginning with a central theme in tantra practice – that of the goddess dwelling in the heart. I’m now going to progress things slightly, with a look at a practice I tend to refer to as the “adoration of the senses”. But first, some thoughts on the senses themselves. Continue reading »
The anthology Women’s Lives, Women’s Rituals in the Hindu Tradition edited by Tracy Pintchman (Oxford University Press, 2007) explores the ways that Hindu women’s engagement in ritual holds agentive and transformative capacity beyond the immediate ritual context, and complicates the limited idea of “domestic” space as an analytic category. As Tracy Pintchman points out in her introduction “In many cultural and historical contexts, including contemporary India, women’s everyday lives tend to revolve heavily around domestic and interpersonal concerns, especially care for children, the home, husbands, and other relatives; hence women’s religiosity also tends to emphasize the domestic realm, and the relationships most central to women. … the domestic religious activities that Hindu women perform may not merely replicate or affirm traditionally formulated domestic ideals; rather these activities may function strategically to reconfigure, reinterpret, criticize, or even reject such ideals.” (p6) Continue reading »
“Salutations to Sri Mata
Salutations to Sri Maharajni
Salulations to the Queen seated upon the lion-throne
Salutations to She who resides in the fire of consciousness
Salutations to She who shines with the red brilliance of a thousand rising suns
Salutations to She who bears the noose, the goad, the sugarcane bow; the five sense-arrows
Salutations to She whose red brilliance engulfs the universe.
One of the ways in which I have, for some years now, approached tantra sadhana is to start with something (relatively) simple, and then extend it with other practices as time, circumstances, and insights allow. There’s a tendency in western occulture to make a distinction between “basic” and “advanced” practices – where “basic” practices constitute something that you do for a set period and then never bother with again, and the “advanced” practices which are really, where the action is. In terms of my approach to tantra practice, I tend to think instead of “core” practices – which can be deepened and enriched over time. Continue reading »
There are many “origin stories” for Saundaryalahari. As I noted in a previous post, the text is traditionally ascribed to Sankaracarya. One of the origin stories has Sankara visiting Siva’s home on Mount Kailasa, where he notices a divine book lying on Siva’s throne – a treasured possession of Parvati. Sankara picks up the book and hastens towards the exit, but is prevented from leaving by Siva’s doorkeeper – Nandikesvara. He and Sankara fight over the book, and Sankara manages to get away with the first portion of the book – the Anandalahari – to which he later adds another 59 stanzas of his own. In another version, Sankara finds the entirety of Saundaryalahari inscribed in stone on Mount Kailasa (having been carved by Nandikesvara who overheard Siva eulogising the goddess with them) but the goddess erases the words, so that Sankara (again) – only memorises the Anandalahari section. These origin stories make a clear distinction between the Anandalahari and the remainder of the poem. Continue reading »
“Using the plow of truth,
sowing the seeds of love,
plucking the weeds of falsehood,
pouring the waters of patience;
they look directly into themselves
and build fences of virtue.
If they remain rooted in their good ways,
The Bliss of Siva will grow.”
Appar (seventh-century Tamil poet-saint, from Pandian, 2009, p21)
“Ethical encounters are jubilant, joyous encounters of both affectivity and liberty.”
Patricia MacCormack, Posthuman Ethics
A great deal has been written about tantra as a transgressive practice and the perceived necessity of moving beyond normative values in order to discover “freedom”. However, the idea of tantra as an ethical practice seems to me to be relatively unthought. For this post then, I want to make some preliminary reflections on the possible ethical dimensions of contemporary tantra practice. Continue reading »
There are times when I languidly linger and times when I awaken and hurry in search of my goal; but cruelly thou hidest thyself from before me.
Rabindranath Tagore Gitanjali Poem #14
1. to remain or stay in a place longer than is usual or expected, as if from reluctance to leave
2. to remain alive; continue or persist, although gradually dying, ceasing, disappearing, etc.
3. to dwell in contemplation, thought, or enjoyment.
4. to be tardy in action; delay; dawdle
5. to walk slowly; saunter along
Last year, on my birthday, we went to the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where we experienced Zarina Bhimji’s haunting film – Yellow Patch. There was one sequence – where the camera zooms slowly towards the crumbling facade of an old Indian palace, revealing a world of untold richness and depth. Afterwards, I was struck by the thought that it is when we slow down – even momentarily – that the world – in particularly the everyday or mundane world that so much of contemporary magical writing tends to disdain – becomes wondrous. Continue reading »
The Heart is the subtle vibration of the triangle which consists of the incessant expansion and contraction of the three powers, and it is the place of repose, the place of supreme bliss. This very Heart is the Self of Bhairava, of that which is the essence of Bhairava, and of the blessed supreme Goddess who is inseperable and nondifferent from him.
Abhinavagupta, commentary on Paratrisika-laghuvritti, transl. Paul Muller-Ortega
So, Mind, call out “Kali! Kali”;
meditate on the Mother’s form.
In this way, that cloud-coloured Syama
will dance, always
dance, in your heart.
Kalyankumar Mukhopadhyay (transl. Rachel Fell McDermott)
Placing one’s chosen deity in the heart is a core element of tantra practice (see, for example Reading the Saundarya Lahari – III-2 for some related discussion and an example from the Todala Tantra.) I have been doing this now (as the beginning phase of formal puja, as formal meditation, and, increasingly, as a day-to-day, moment-by-moment rememberance) for nigh on twenty-five years, so it’s probably high time for me to make some reflections on this particular aspect of sadhana. Continue reading »