Skip to navigation | Skip to content



Posts tagged ‘reflections’

  1. Jottings: On the sacredness of text

    Back in December, I ran into a friend who asked me what I was occupying myself with, and I told him that – amongst other things – I was struggling with my series on the Saundaryalahari and that my original estimation of how long it would to take me to write a commentary on its verses had become mired in difficulties – because, as one might appreciate, it was opening up questions – and avenues – that I hadn’t expected to have to deal with or traverse. He was sympathetic, but asserted “Well, Pagans don’t have sacred texts”. Looking around us – we were having this conversation in one of London’s largest esoteric bookshops – I pointed past him to the shelves and replied – “no, Pagans have an abundance of texts”. Continue reading »

    Share
  2. Some Thoughts on Syncretism…..

    I’ve recently been digging into the “Yogis, Heros and Poets” anthology on the Nath tradition that Phil recently reviewed. The article that I found most striking was reflection by David N. Lorenzen on the similarities between the perspectives of Gorakhnath and the mystical poet Kabir in relation to their perceptions of religious difference. For Lorenzen the inspired intellectualism of these two teacher/poets allowed them to express a sense of liberty from religious division that seemed in contrast to mere folksy syncretism. Continue reading »

    Share
  3. Heart Practice II: the goddess dwelling in the heart

    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 »

    Share
  4. Jottings: Reading like a frog, reading like a lion

    “Every journey begins with a single hop.”
    Kermit the frog

    Occasionally I find myself, when trying to approach a subject for writing & reflection – flitting between many different texts. So a couple of weeks ago for instance, I picked up Catherine Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice to browse on my morning train ride, glanced at an online article by Lakoff & Johnson at lunchtime, and took in a gulp or two of Jaideva Singh’s translation of the Spanda-Karikas in the evening – all in relation to wanting to articulate a hazy idea related to ritual practice. Continue reading »

    Share
  5. Heart Practice – I

    “The emissional energy of Sambhu thus abides everywhere. Out of it [arises] the ensemble of motions of the liquid bliss of joy. So indeed, when a sweet [song] is sung, when [there is] touching, or when [there is the smelling of] sandalwood and so on, when the state of standing in the middle [the state of indifference] ceases, [there arises] the state of vibrating in the heart, which is called precisely “the energy of bliss,” because of which a human being is with-heart.”
    Abhinavagupta, Tantraloka

    “A heartfelt practice requires attentiveness to the stillness and movement of experience – to the multiple tightenings, contractions, fluidities and expansions of immediate somatic experience. Attentiveness is the doorway to a new curriculum of breath, silence, and listening – listening in the body, listening to feeling, listening to the ordinary experiences of life – hearing [and seeing] with the heart. It is in the ordinary, disregarded or forgotten phenomena of the everyday that we discover insight and freedom. From the ordinary we distill the essence of human/heart experience.”
    Diana Denton, The Heart’s Geography: Compassion as Practice

    Continue reading »

    Share
  6. Intensities: Walking sacred London

    My working day begins with a passage through London, a tour through a slice of history in a city which continually rewrites itself. It is during my daily walk to my workplace that I take time to connect to my sense of the sacred – found in moments of connection; in chance encounters; in memories of my own past entwined with the histories of of the places I pass and the spaces passed through; in those instants when I am caught unawares by wonder; thoughts stilled in the swirl of the senses. Continue reading »

    Share
  7. Jottings: on defining tantra

    “Not knowing that the truth is situated within one’s Self, the deluded is confused by looking for it in treatises. One whose judgement is so poor is like the shepherd who sees his goat in a well when it is actually already within the flock.”
    Kulanarva Tantra, 1.96

    “the Tantras are generally mere manuals of mysticism, magic, and superstition of the worst and most silly kind.”
    Monier Monier-Williams

    Sometimes, when I do public lectures on tantra, or just natter on to people in the pub or round a campfire, I’m asked to give a “definition” of tantra. This is something that I’m generally reluctant to do, as tantra is such a wide-ranging field, that it’s well-nigh to sum it up in a one-size-fits-all definition. So for this post, I’m going to explore some of the ways that contemporary scholars have attempted to get to grips with the problem of defining tantra. I’d argue that it’s useful to acquaint oneself with these issues, particularly, if, one is drawing on contemporary scholarship on tantra for inspiration and guidance. Continue reading »

    Share
  8. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – III-2

    Continuing right on from the previous post in this series, I will now examine verse 8 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »

    Share
  9. Cross Bones: queering sacred space?

    “Meaning is not in things, but in between; in the iridescence, the interplay; in the interconnections; at the intersections, at the crossroads. Meaning is transitional as it is transitory; in the puns or bridges, the correspondence.”
    Norman O Brown, Love’s Body

    Whenever I exit London Bridge station, I make a brief nod in the direction of Cross Bones graveyard – its part of my recognition of London’s network of sacred spaces. I’ve been to some of the monthly vigils held at this place, but more often than not, just strolling past it – and knowing that it’s there amid the bustle of London is enough for me. Continue reading »

    Share
  10. Practice Notes: Wot, no circle?

    “Infinite and endless creations are threaded on me as pearls on a string. I myself am the lord that resides in the causal and subtle bodies of the jivas. I am Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. I am the sun, moon, and stars. I am the beasts and birds, the Brahmin and the untouchable. I am the noble soul as well as the hunter and the thief. I am male, female, and hermaphrodite. Whenever there is anything to be seen or heard, I am found there, within and without. There is nothing moving or unmoving that can exist without me.” Devi Gita

    Pretty much all of the Pagan public rituals I have participated in over the last decade or so have shared a common feature – some kind of circle – which does not feature in my own practice of tantra puja. Whenever I facilitate open pujas, some of the commonest questions that arise are related to the differences between contemporary Pagan ritual processes and tantra puja as I practice it, so this post is an attempt to reflect on these very basic distinctions and how they are underwritten by very different ritual ontologies. Continue reading »

    Share