Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I have done hundreds of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. And so if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site and there’s a donation page that explains all their alternatives for people who don’t like PayPal. And thanks again to those who have been supporting it. My guest today is Kavitha Chinnaiyan, MD. She is a cardiologist, an integrative cardiologist, because she is also a meditation teacher, expert in Ayurveda, a Tantrika. She became drawn to the direct path through the teachings of Greg Goode, who has been on BatGap, and Sri Atmananda Krishnamenon, and has studied yoga, Sri Vidyasadhana, Vedanta and Tantra through the teachings of the Chinmaya mission, Sri Premananda, Sally Kempton, who has been on BatGap, Paul Mueller-Ortega, who has been on BatGap, and Sri Chaitanya Ananda Natasaraswati, who hasn’t been on BatGap. She blends her expertise in cardiology with her knowledge of Ayurveda, yoga, Vedanta, and the direct path in her approach to healing, enabling patients to discover bliss amid chronic illness. She is an associate professor of medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan. And she is the author of Shakti Rising, published last year, Non-Duality Press, and The Heart of Wellness, which I don’t have a copy of. So I can’t hold up, which is coming out, actually just coming out this month, or just came out, or what?
Kavitha: Just came out.
Rick: Just came out, which is more of a health-oriented book. Shakti Rising is subtitled, “Embracing Shadow and Light on the Goddess Path to Wholeness.” And well, first of all, welcome Kavitha, glad to have you.
Kavitha: Thanks so much for having me here, Rick.
Rick: Yeah, and this is an interesting book. When you first glance at it, you see all these photos of Indian goddesses with skulls around their necks and drinking blood and cutting off heads and all that stuff. And you might think, “Eh, firstly, I’m not a Hindu, and secondly, that’s all mythology and ooga-booga and it doesn’t interest me that much.” But if you actually read the book, as I have almost in its entirety, you discover that these archetypes are symbolic or representative of a very sophisticated and subtle understanding of the mechanics of creation. And in fact, I bet you if a qualified quantum physicist were to read this book, he or she could draw correlations between a lot of the things that Kavitha explains in it and his or her understanding of physics at the cutting edge of that discipline. So it’s a credit to Kavitha, I think, for ferreting out the implications of these archetypes and also from credit to the tradition from which they come for understanding so deeply the mechanics of creation and portraying them in a sort of artistic or archetypical form which probably most scholars have dismissed as quaint mythology, but which is really profound and significant. Anyway, that’s a bit of a mouthful, but what do you think? Is that a fair assessment of what you intended to convey in the book?
Kavitha: Absolutely. That’s absolutely right on target.
Rick: Good. Another thing that … well, I have 4 pages of notes here, so we’re going to spend a couple hours getting into all kinds of interesting stuff. But one thing that struck me fairly soon in reading the book and was actually mentioned in the bio that I just read is “direct path.” And I actually moderated a panel discussion on the direct versus progressive paths at the Science and Non-duality Conference last October. And I felt like in reading your book and hearing your explanation of direct path that I gained a much better understanding of what that term actually means, even though I prepared for and moderated that panel. Maybe just for starters, we could start in many places. But why don’t you define what is meant by direct path as contrasted with progressive path?
Kavitha: Sure. So, the progressive paths, you know, are the paths that most of us are familiar with, yoga and Tantra and even Vedanta to a large extent, because they start with the assumption that who we are is this limited body-mind, And that we are going towards a goal of remembering or discovering the Self. Because the direct path actually starts with the premise that we are already that. And so, what happens if you stand in your direct experience, you know, devoid of conditioning or devoid of stories, And if you were just to look at your direct experience alone, what would that look like? For instance, if you were to look at an object, you know, without any of the labeling that occurs regarding the object, what would happen to that object if we took a stand as the self or awareness? And so, the stand from which we approach a path is what determines whether it’s progressive or the direct path. Because ultimately even in the progressive paths, at no point are we ever separate from awareness. We’re always that, but it’s just we begin with the goal seemingly in the future that we are going to discover that, whereas here we start with that premise already.
Rick: Is there an overlap? Is the direct path progressive and is the progressive path or can it be in some respects direct?
Kavitha: Yeah, so you know, the direct path, it’s very interesting, because Greg, you know, who is really my teacher in the direct path, will say that even to have arrived at the direct path, most people have done years of practice in the progressive paths. Because it’s such a subtle thing to tell somebody who is not familiar at all with this and say, “Now take a stand as awareness.” That’s a very subtle thing. So it makes sense only after years of having studied in the progressive paths, suddenly it makes sense, right?
Rick: Yeah, that was actually going to be my question, you know, because people think, they hear about this and they think, “Hey, why not the direct path? Why goof around for a decade?” I just assumed, you know, get right on to it. And then you have all these people that have read some Vedanta books and so on, proclaiming themselves already enlightened and everybody’s already enlightened and you don’t have to do anything and you know, going on and on in internet chat groups. And so I must admit that I developed a bit of a resentment or bias against that sort of angle. But anyway, go ahead.
Kavitha: So, you know, I think it’s really important to clarify that the direct path isn’t Neo-Vedanta, you know, which is what you were just… Yeah, the Neo-Advaita, which is there’s nobody to do anything. It never says that. You know, the direct path in the tradition of Sri Atmananda Krishnamananda never talks about any of that. It’s just saying, you know, well, what is really happening in your direct experience right now? And so it goes through a very systematic process of looking at the world, looking at our bodies, looking at, you know, objects of the sense objects and so on in purely the direct experience. And so it’s tempting to think that the direct path is somehow going to be shorter. It isn’t. You know, just because it’s direct doesn’t mean that somehow you’re going to be enlightened in this moment. There is still a lot of work to do because taking a stand as awareness isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. And so taking a stand there and doing the inquiry is a process. It is progressive in that way.
Rick: Yeah, when you say taking a stand as awareness, what comes to my mind is that many people might try to do that and end up being manipulative of their experience, you know, like they’re driving the car or they’re shopping or they’re having a dinner conversation and part of their mind is trying to kind of take a stand as awareness as they’re doing that, which in my understanding would divide the mind and divide the attention and not be helpful.
Kavitha: Absolutely. So, you know, this is not something that Greg says, you know, in his teachings of the direct path, but something that I feel as a long-term meditator and a proponent of meditation for various reasons. That taking a stand as awareness actually becomes more natural when we have cultivated the witnessing ability, which is something that happens with a long-term deep meditation practice. And that in the context of inner silence that makes more sense. Otherwise, exactly as you said, you know, we’re manipulating experience to think that we are standing as awareness, whereas actually it’s all mental noise.
Rick: Yeah, and when you say witnessing ability, I think of witnessing more as a natural condition that develops eventually rather than a skill that one acquires.
Rick: Yeah, and so, you know, if witnessing is genuine, it’s not some attitude that one adopts or some manipulation that one tries to continue throughout the day or anything. But it’s just a way of being where you could be involved in dynamic activity and yet there’s this pure silence and this sense of a very distinct sense of uninvolvement because pure silence is uninvolved in activity. And it should ultimately, ideally, eventually persist throughout sleep. So, you couldn’t manipulate that.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely, and that can’t be faked. It can’t be adopted, as you said, but it’s something that kind of naturally unfolds over a long-term meditation practice. Wouldn’t you agree, as a long-term meditator?
Rick: Yeah, it does. I was interviewing a guy one time, we got on this topic and he said, “Oh, I can witness any time,” and then he said, “Here, watch, I’ll show you.” And he kind of went into this spacey detached sort of thing like he wasn’t all there. And I thought, “That’s not witnessing as I understand it.”
Kavitha: No, that’s not how I understand it either. And this is the thing, you know. I’m sure we’ll get into this, but Tantra is this science of absolute intimacy with experience. However, to get there, we first need to create that space between the subject and the object, which is what witnessing does. And we need that space in order to be able to look at our own processes. We need that space to stand back and that’s really what witnessing provides over time.
Rick: So, would you say that you or one would do something to cultivate that space between subject and object or would you say that that’s something that one eventually notices after sufficient practice?
Kavitha: I think it just happens over time with a dedicated meditation practice. And I say meditation practice because that’s what worked for me and works for people I know, for the people I teach meditation to. And there may be other things that work for other people but this is something that I know works very effectively.
Rick: Yeah, and just to kind of clarify it more maybe, you know, when we say subject and object, what do you mean by subject when you say subject? We know what we mean by objects, trees and dogs and everything, but what do you mean by subject between which there’s going to be a space between that and objects?
Kavitha: Yeah, so you know when we think about objects, you know, traditionally we think of physical objects like, you know, the table and the chair and the tree and so on. But actually everything that is experienced is an object.
Rick: Sure, a thought or …
Kavitha: Thought, emotion, any perception, any sensation, all of those things are really objects. But who are all these things occurring to, what is that, and that is the subject. So there is the sole subject and everything appears to that subject and they’re all objects.
Rick: Yes, okay, so we could say that the mechanics of perception are such that there’s an observer. There’s the observed and then there’s the process of observation. Right?
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely, you know the classic triad.
Rick: Right, and process would involve the mind, the nervous system, the senses and all that. So, what is that observer? It’s pretty easy to put your finger on the object or even the mechanics of perception. But how about the perceiver or the observer, what is that? S; Yeah, so that basically sums up the spiritual path for me, which is what is that observer. Because ordinarily we think the observer is this person that resides in this body. You know, most of us don’t think the body as ourselves. You know, we think that whatever is inside the body that is, you know, being the puppeteer of the body is who we are, right, the subtle body. So we take that to be the subject, but then what the spiritual path shows us is that, that too is an object. And so the subject then is pure awareness which is not localized to the body and the mind. It is more global where even this person occurs in that global awareness. So that process from the subject, you know, with the small “s” moving on to the subject with the capital “S” would be the journey, basically.
Rick: Okay, good. I think most people listening to this will be familiar with that kind of notion. And so, just to put a lid on it, the subject which we hope to discover through spiritual path is not going to be discovered in the way that we discover Antarctica or, you know, something under a microscope. Or it’s not something that can be observed through the senses any more than the classic example, any more than the eyeball can sort of perceive itself. It’s that which perceives.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. Yes, and I think we’ll get more into that as we go into the path of the Goddess. But that kind of knowledge is actually one of the subtle veils that are very, very difficult to pierce through.
Rick: Well, let’s get into the path of the Goddess. You talk about how the feminine power became sidelined. I think that would be interesting to start with. Historically, what happened?
Kavitha: Well, you know, a lot of the reports, for instance, of yoga, if you look at the origin of yoga, there are many different theories and many different kind of historical perspectives on how yoga began. But one perspective is that because women have the cyclical nature, you know, they have these cycles of menstruation and birth and menopause and so on. It is much more easy for women to actually observe their own physiological processes, which is what happens to the, not just the, you know, the reproductive system, but how it affects everything else because of these cyclical natures and the nature of the woman. And so, one theory in terms of the origin of yoga states that actually it was something that was discovered by women in the, you know, in the pre-Vedic times. And so they began to actually observe their physiology and to see, could we control this? You know, could we influence this by breath practices or through certain postures or by changing the way that we think or feel, and began to actually experience changes in their cycles as a result of changing these kind of, you know, the prana in the body and so on. And then they taught it to the men. Because it’s like, you know, ultimately it’s about progeny and the quality of the progeny so if we can teach it to the men and have them also purify this prana and have the highest quality progeny as a result of that. And so, they taught it to the men and eventually in the Vedic times and moving forward after that somehow women were just excluded from all of that. And so, the very processes that actually helped create that, you know, menstruation and so on, especially in the Hindu tradition became a taboo. That because women are going through these cyclical processes, they are impure or they should not be taught this. And while there is some wisdom in women not doing certain practices because it affects their physiology, it was just taken as, you know, being impure or inferior and passed on through centuries of that kind of wrong kind of thinking which is still widely prevalent right now.
Rick: Yeah, if you give credence to the notion of the yugas or any other model of ages and cycles throughout history, do you kind of see the patriarchal dominance as being characteristic or symptomatic of the so-called Kali Yuga or the dark age in which we seem to have found ourselves? And do you see this Me Too movement and the whole awakening of the feminine and, you know, divine feminine and emphasis in women’s role in spirituality and so on to be a kind of a harbinger of better times?
Kavitha: I certainly hope so. And yeah, I think it’s very interesting. You know, this whole issue of the Kali Yuga and it seems like that seems to be true not just in our political and cultural and social kinds of upheaval that the whole world seems to be going through right now, but also natural disasters and everything, for instance, that California is going through or other places are going through. It’s like an absolute upheaval that change is the only way, that whatever is the dominant structure, whatever is kind of crystallized into being the norm is not going to work anymore. And so, too, with the Me Too movement and the redefining of those roles, you know, the gender roles and saying, “well, it’s time to question those crystallized ways of thinking and conditioning that somehow we as the world have,” you know, we have just kind of accepted to be the norm.
Rick: Yeah, you and I were talking about Amma before we started here. And, you know, she’s doing things, she’s been doing things all along in India. I mean, the very fact of what she does was totally shocking to a lot of sort of male dominated thinkers in India, touching people and hugging people and so on. But then she’s also tried to put women in roles that ordinarily reserved for men, you know, in India, the various temple functions and yagyas and things like that which women weren’t supposed to be able to do.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. And so she is an absolute, you know, she’s a trailblazer, you know, in this whole spiritual movement. And so what really attracts me to this path of the divine feminine is that even though, you know, the traditional spiritual paths have been patriarchal, there have been some traditions where it has not been the case, where the women are still given their equal place on the path and are the actual keepers of that tradition. So, you won’t even find these teachers. You won’t even find these women. They are not, you know, they are not going to be announcing themselves to be teachers. So, it’s really a stroke of luck if you can find someone like that to work with. But there is that unbroken tradition still.
Rick: Yeah, well here at Batgap we have a policy these days, at least last year or two, of interviewing an equal number of men and women. You know, it’s like Irene says, “Okay, we’re looking at March, here’s two men, now we need two women.” And so we really try to stick to that.
Kavitha: Oh, thank you, thank you for doing that. Okay, so, Shakti and the Maha-Vidyas. So, the Maha-Vidyas, as I understand it, well you go ahead and define them.
Kavitha: Sure. So Maha means great and Vidya means knowledge or wisdom. So these are the goddesses of great wisdom, great goddesses of cosmic wisdom, many different ways of defining them, but that’s really the essence of the definition of the word Maha-Vidya. And there are traditionally ten Maha-Vidyas or ten goddesses of great wisdom. The most famous of them is Kali, and what makes them great, you know, what is it that makes the sequence of this group of goddesses so unique is the first aspect is that each of these goddesses represents a force of creation, like Kali represents time, Bhuvaneshwari represents space and so on. So, that is one thing they all have in common. The other thing they all have in common is that they are all fierce. So, you don’t see any of the demureness in them and you don’t see the patriarchal definition of femininity in them because they defy all such norms of what the feminine is supposed to be. And they defy those norms because Shakti is everything. You know, she is all of creation.
Rick: In fact, many of the images of their fierceness depict them taking it out on men, standing on them, lopping their heads off, smashing their … pulling their tongues out, stuff like that.
Kavitha: No, it’s … well, you know, they are typically representing the poor man in all of these imageries is Shiva. But there is, of course, as you know, there is a very deep symbolism behind that. But you know, it’s not like these goddesses are, they are not propagating this kind of a, what I call, the misinformed feminism. That’s not what these goddesses are about. But they, whether we are, whether I’m a man or a woman, the Mahavidyas are going to be extremely important because the third thing they all have in common is they all represent aspects of our own psyche and our own, you know, the kinds of things that keep us bound to thinking that the self is this body-mind, which is what I call the shadow aspect. And then they also have the opposing quality of the light, which leads us to liberation from that. So, they are not, you know, how deities always represent the highest in any particular tradition. And they are pure goodness or pure light. So the Mahavidyas are not like that because they don’t exclude the darkness. So they include all of the darkness and all of the so-called negative aspects to show that Shakti does not prefer one thing over the other. She is everything.
Rick: Well, if we look at the actual universe, it’s a pretty wild place. I mean, there are planets getting smashed by asteroids and getting melted by expanding suns and all kinds of … It’s a violent place, full of beauty, full of violence and death and life. And I mean, the whole spectrum of possibilities is on full display. So, if these goddesses represent the impulses of intelligence governing the universe, then it’s completely in keeping with the iconography that they have these fierce aspects, I would say, as well as compassionate aspects. I mean, their whole point is not to just wreak havoc, but to destroy ignorance and to liberate people and so on.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely. And so, you know, this is why they really force us to kind of smash our own stereotypes of what we think we are. Because you know, for instance, we talk about ahimsa, you know, non-violence as the fundamental ethic of yoga, for instance, or of any spiritual path. But then, you know, you look at Kali or any of these goddesses. You know, their imagery is very violent, right? And so, especially Kali, for instance. And if you look at Kali, you wouldn’t be thinking, “Well, she’s representing non-violence.” You know, that’s not what comes to mind. It’s extremely gory and violent. But as time, you know, as the force of time, it’s the perfect, you know, representation, if you ask me. Because time is violent. It’s ruthless. It doesn’t wait for anybody. It doesn’t care about, you know, our precious, you know, memories and so on. It’s just, it doesn’t wait for anybody. It doesn’t care about anybody. It’s always going, right? And so, she is showing that. And you know, when we think about life itself, ask a woman who’s given birth if that was a non-violent process, you know. So everything, by taking birth, you know, just taking birth itself is a violent process. So, you know, if we don’t accept that, then we are living in delusion that there is going to be a place of absolute non-violence all the time. There is never going to be such a thing.
Rick: So how do you reconcile the prescription of ahimsa in Patanjali’s Yoga with the reality of the universe and with the depiction of these Mahavidyas?
Kavitha: So, I think that can be a path in itself over a lifetime, you know, this real discovery of ahimsa within ourselves and the actual practice of it. Because we think that, you know, non-violence is about not killing and not doing these kinds of bad things to other people, which is of course part of that. But it’s much more subtle than that, you know, especially as spiritual practitioners and spiritual seekers. We can be extremely violent in the way we judge other people who are perhaps not on the path and how we judge ourselves and how we judge everything and think that this is not how it should be. So any resistance to what is, is violence. And just to come to that acceptance, I think, is the path of Kali.
Rick: It’s true. I mean, Kali herself is not resisting what is. One thing that comes to my mind is James Bond. He had a license to kill, right? But ordinarily people don’t have that license. And so, perhaps we could say that a spiritual seeker, it behooves or is incumbent upon a spiritual seeker to practice ahimsa, to be non-violent. But if you happen to have risen to the level of, you know, one of the fundamental impulses of intelligence governing the universe, then some sort of violence is within your job description.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, we have to be violent sometimes in very subtle ways within ourselves. Right? If you have these recurring, self-defeating thoughts, for instance, then we can invoke Kali to behead all of them. You know? So cut them off right at the source but see how violence is required sometimes. And you know, if you’re a parent, you’ll understand that sometimes you need to be able to communicate with your children in a way that seems violent. But actually it isn’t. Right? In the grand scheme of things.
Rick: Yeah, it seems violent to the child, like, “stop scrubbing behind my ear,” you know, or “you’re depriving me of this candy.”
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah, yeah. “Let me be on my phone 24 hours a day.”
Rick: Yeah, I’m sure you’re not advocating any kind of actual violence against children. But you know, things from the child’s perspective seem so mean and unfair.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. Yeah, and I say that, you know, as a mother of two teenagers, and trying to direct them always into things that are, you know, more wholesome, as in, “don’t be on your phone
Rick: It rots your brain.”
Rick: Yeah, well it’s interesting actually, because this points to a deeper point. Maybe you’ve already kind of said it, but if we regard the universe as being one giant evolution machine, as having an evolutionary agenda or trajectory, then all the stuff that happens, however violent it may seem, is ultimately in our best interest. If it’s true that the universe has this evolutionary tendency or direction, which it seems to have, if you look at its violent birth as the Big Bang and then its evolution over 13.7 billion years to where we’ve gotten it, it all involves, you know, exploding stars and all kinds of wild things happening in order to make life possible.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. And even, you know, we were talking about the yugas earlier, and if you look at every yuga has had, you know, its share of violence and its share of the bad guys, so to speak. So it seems like somehow, well, we are in this current era of really bad things happening. But at no point in creation has there been a time when that has not been the case. You know, because that is really part of the whole. And Kali sadhana or the sadhana of this particular Mahavidya actually shows us that, that we need to get beyond ourselves in the way we think. And because creation itself moves as a whole, it isn’t, you know, restricted or there isn’t…Kali doesn’t prefer one thing over another, everything is part of it.
Rick: Yeah, and the balance keeps shifting between sattwa, rajas, and tamas and whatever other triads you want to define. You know, there’s a cyclical nature to everything.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick: Turn, turn, turn. Okay, now here’s a question. If my … we’ve alluded to the notion of the universe being intelligent and everything, nothing being arbitrary or accidental or capricious. There’s this sort of infinite intelligence in every iota of creation and every vast phenomenon as well, galaxies and their interactions and so on. So, when I think of these goddesses, you know, I wonder whether it would be actually possible to get down to some level where you would actually see one of them as depicted in these sorts of photos, you know, this kind of thing. “Oops, there it is.” Or whether those are just sort of artistic representations of, you know, streams of intelligence or impulses of intelligence which perform various functions. But when I say that I don’t mean to depersonalize them because I think that any, by definition, an impulse of intelligence, gross or subtle, is a conscious being. We are an impulse of intelligence. There are angels and celestial beings who are impulses of intelligence and who are conscious beings in their own right. And I suspect that these Mayavidyas, if they really exist, are conscious beings who have a universal frame of reference or universal territory of influence. You know, they are kind of on the upper echelons of the hierarchy of creation and have a function that encompasses the entire universe or universes as the case may be. What do you think about that?
Kavitha: Yeah, and that’s exactly how I feel. So you know, to back up a little bit. So to say that, for instance, to really define, you know, these Mahavidyas, you know, what are they? And so we have to just talk a little bit about this dichotomy between Shiva and Shakti and then we can understand that, which is, you know, in the Tantric tradition. There is this potential before anything. So all of creation rests as a potential and latent potential, undifferentiated. And the first movement within that potential is self-recognition or this self-awareness. And so it is said that Shakti and Shiva separate in that self-recognition. So she is his self-recognition. So it’s like that undifferentiated potential looking in the mirror and finding that the one here is Shiva and there is Shakti. But they are actually one and the same. And so with that differentiation, you know, there is the whole creation process begins after that. You know, that is the moment of the big bang, so to speak, that self-awareness. But in order to understand that beyond that, then, you know, what creates space and time and this expansion of the universe and, you know, this creation of separate beings and so on. So Shakti is Shiva’s creative power. So it is said that, you know, Shiva is pure awareness and pure awareness is “attributelessness.” And so there are no attributes. Shiva cannot create because his creative power is Shakti. And so that creative power, so if we have to create something, we need several different skills, right? And so those skills of creation are these Mahavidyas, so as time and as space and as the intention or will and knowledge and action and so on. So, Shakti taking different forms are these Mahavidyas. So she is actually, there’s only one. But she takes all these different forms to go ahead with the process of creation. But they’re all powers of Shiva. So you know, they’re always one and the same. So you know, so they are universal in that, but also they form, each of these Mahavidyas forms a focal point of our sadhana and our devotion and our practice. And so anytime a deity becomes the focal point of a practice, we see them as such, you know, in our mind’s eyes.
Rick: I mentioned earlier that I thought that if a qualified quantum physicist were to read this book, he would be able to correlate a lot of the things in it with the understanding that physics has come up with, which, because physics, by definition, is trying to understand the subtlest mechanics of creation from whence the whole creation arises and how it diversifies and differentiates and manifests and so on. But there is one guy, there are a number of them, Menas Kaphatos and others who speak at the Science and Nonduality Conference. I’ve interviewed Menas. There is John Hagelin whom I’ve interviewed who wrote a paper called “Is Consciousness a Unified Field?” and goes into a really interesting explanation of the sort of, I think he calls it, “sequential spontaneous symmetry breaking” that happens as oneness diversifies into multiplicity. So anyway, that’s just a reference for people who want to look into that side of it more. Okay. So before we proceed is there anything that has kind of come to your mind that you’d like to say?
Rick: Okay, good. So, let’s start going through some of these Mahavidyas and explaining the role and significance of each one. The first in your book and the first one you’ve primarily mentioned so far is Kali, who represents time and which is also related to death where letting go and moving on brings new life. So what shall we say about her?
Kavitha: You know, we could talk about Kali for hours because there’s so much to say about her. Because she is, you know, among the Mahavidyas she represents time and so she is the primordial Force. And that’s why she’s also called Adi Shakti, the primordial, the first Shakti. And you know, so in regards to Kali, I think there are so many different aspects of Kali. You know, she is also the goddess of transformation because time is transformation. And so, one thing that I think it’s really important for me to say, and to just put it out there, is that there is a lot of kind of correlation of Kali these days with what I was saying earlier about misinformed feminism. As if, like, she is the goddess of vengeance or that, you know, somehow we tend to justify our rage by portraying Kali or Durga or any of these goddesses as if saying that, “Look, I can embody that.” But what I want to say is, “No, we can’t embody that” because she is Adi Shakti and it’s going to take a lot more than rage to embody her. And that requires transcendence of time and the limitations of linear time which is really her biggest trap or the way she entraps us in this illusion of being this limited time, you know, time-bound kind of person with our stories and so on. So you know, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding around Kali.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, as the story goes, her rage was a benign thing that she came into being to get rid of some real bad guys who were making a lot of trouble in the universe. And ordinary human rage isn’t necessarily so benign and constructive. It can be damaging and violent and harmful. So like as you say, we shouldn’t necessarily use Kali as an alibi for venting our anger.
Kavitha: Yeah, and so you know, you bring up a really good point. And that story that you were relating from is from the Devi Mahatmyam, you know, where Kali actually leaps onto this battlefield from Durga’s face and it is exactly to vanquish these Asuras or these bad forces of the universe. But however, the Devi actually in the Devi Mahatmyam says, “There is nobody to kill because they’re all me.” And so her rage and her destruction, they’re all a show because, you know, the good and the bad, she declares that they’re also my children, they’re also me. And so, you know, that non-differentiation between me and other is the fundamental principle, right? And if we can’t embody Kali’s rage unless, you know, that is also our state of being, that non-separation.
Rick: Yeah, and the Gita says stuff like that too. You know, weapons cannot cleave him, fire cannot burn him, water cannot wet him, wind cannot dry him away and so on, that sort of indestructibility of the self which is obviously not true of the body. So we have to know ourself as being that which is uncleavable and so on or else we’re just sort of misapplying levels.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly and you know in the 11th chapter of the Gita when Lord Krishna shows his universal form, the Vishwaroopa, to Arjuna, Arjuna is actually shocked to see that even the Kauravas are part of Krishna.
Rick: Who are the bad guys in that story, right?
Kavitha: Yes, yes, everybody is swirling around in Krishna’s form, like, you know, he is everywhere, he is encompassing everything.
Rick: Yeah, well if we think of Krishna as God and if we define God as the sort of universal intelligence which even scientifically we can see is functional in every single particle of creation, we can’t find a place where we don’t see all those laws of nature functioning in one way or another. Then obviously it has to be a totality which contains all the parts. There could be nothing outside of it.
Kavitha: Exactly. And so it is also, you know, in the Bhagavad Gita. We call that intelligence Krishna and in the Devi traditions we call that intelligence Devi or Shakti.
Rick: I was just commenting with someone the other day about one of the meanings for Krishna is black and it’s interesting that the color black is, anything that’s black absorbs all colors of the spectrum. It doesn’t reflect any. And that also reminds me of that saying that Brahman is the eater of everything. So somehow the totality absorbs or eats or consumes or subsumes all the diversity.
Kavitha: And so it is with Kali. You know, she is absolutely black so that’s how we differentiate her from Tara for instance who has a little bit of color. But Kali is absolutely black. She is the black goddess for the exact same reason which is, and I don’t know if you knew this, but Kali is supposed to be Krishna’s Shakti.
Rick: I didn’t know that. I did not know that.
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah, so she is, you know, considered his Shakti.
Rick: Interesting. Now, you know, a lot of these goddesses, Kali included, are always wearing garlands of skulls and as I understand that’s supposed to be symbolic of the destruction of egos in a good sense, kind of like which it would be destruction of ignorance in a person. And so, you know, in your book you refer a lot to the I-self and so I have some questions about the I-self.
Rick: Does everyone have one? Can we function without one? There is a quote from your book, “The sense of separation is reinforced through comparison and judgment and the I-self grows stronger.” Can one be utterly without an I-self and still function as a human being or does the I-self get transformed into something more pure but there’s still some sort of recognition of a person here in order to live in the world?
Kavitha: Yeah, so that is a great question. So the first question, does everybody have one? Yes, unless we have, you know, worked through it and so on. But yes, everybody has one because we are, you know, we are culturally and socially universally conditioned to develop one. And that happens at a very early age with the formation of with giving a child a name and suddenly there is a separation between me and the mother and me and me and everybody else. And that sense of me is what I’m calling the I-self which is, you know, the story of the me that, you know, revolves around the body and the mind and it’s called the ego in every tradition. And the ego, I specifically didn’t want to use the word ego because sometimes it means an inflated sense of self. But I specifically left that out because you may not have an inflated sense of self but you have a sense of self that is limited and so that’s why I use, you know, the I-self as the word. And so is it possible to live without an I-self? Well you know there are accounts of people that have lived through that whole no-self kind of an experience. Now I forget, who is … I’m sure you are …
Rick: Anandamayi Ma or somebody?
Kavitha: No, the Christian mystic.
Rick: Oh, Bernadette Roberts.
Kavitha: Yes, Bernadette Roberts. We read her book, The Experience of No-Self.
Rick: I’ve got it on the shelf here, I’ve dabbled in it.
Kavitha: Yeah, so you know she describes this whole process of how she lives through or lived through that phase of the complete falling away of the no-self.
Rick: Did she pass through that phase and eventually discover some kind of self there?
Kavitha: I think so. I think, you know, then she talks about coming back to the marketplace after having been a nun for many, many years and that sense of self coming back in a very different way.
Rick: Yeah, different.
Kavitha: Where it is more of a functional thing, where it is for living day to day but there isn’t that self-referential thing going on. And you know Gary Weber and others talk about, you know, these, the two neural pathways. One is the one that is constantly self-referential, you know, this is the blah-blah network. And then the other is the task positive network which in which there isn’t the self-referential thing going on all the time. And so if we lose that, the task positive network is still there and, you know, these sages call that “the state where the mind is your slave” rather than “you are the slave of the mind,” where the mind is used for functional, you know, for doing practical things but then it doesn’t exist otherwise.
Rick: Yeah, but there still is one. So if you say, “Hey Nisargadatta, would you like a cigarette or something?” He knows who you’re talking to.
Kavitha: Especially with the cigarette.
Rick: And then obvious examples would be like somebody says they have no I-self but then you stick a fork in their leg or something. They know that that’s happening. There’s some kind of localized identification with that experience. It’s not the same as sticking a fork in the table or something like that.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, I think this is where there are subtle differences between the Tantric path and the other paths. I think it’s one of those subtle things where, you know, for instance in my studies of Advaita Vedanta, the teaching or the general consensus was you need to lose the ego. And so you know that losing the ego is the beginning of enlightenment or the beginning of awakening. But that isn’t really the issue in Tantra. You know it is actually refinement, where, you know, that you’re not that but then what that sense of self is, is continuously refined where the understanding or the self-knowledge actually pours through into the body-mind where our functioning becomes more and more and more refined. So it is actually a two-way journey you know where you’re going up and losing the sense of self. Of course, that’s self-referential kind of a thing but then the body-mind obviously doesn’t go away. You’re still alive and you’re still functioning. You’re still living. So that light of, you know, the self can be allowed to actually refine those conditioned pathways Where, you know what that means is, it’s very easy to be awake and still be a jerk.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. Which brings into the question the whole issue of what it really means to be awake or what an awakening really means. I mean so many people say I’ve had an awakening but I always think, “yeah fine.” But there’s so many possibilities for levels of awakening, degrees of awakening and, you know, one awakening does not a saint make.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly and you know Tantra is very beautiful in that. It’s not like, don’t limit you to ascendance. It’s actually imminence, also which is the refinement of the body-mind to levels of functioning where we are actually rewiring our neurohormonal pathways, and you know, rewiring the whole physiology basically where we can live that light more and more.
Rick: Yeah, and as a physician I’m sure you know that the whole physiology doesn’t get rewired overnight. It’s neuroplasticity and all that takes, it can be a lifelong process.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely, and that’s what my other book is about by the way.
Rick: Good, I’ll have to read that. Just one little comment. I made up this metaphor the other day. It’s a variation on an old metaphor but I was having a discussion with a friend about this no-self thing. And it’s like streams and rivers are completely distinct from one another. You know, this stream says “I am this stream and I’m totally different than that stream.” But once they reach the ocean, then they all kind of merge and then they might say, “Oh, I’m just the ocean.” But let’s say for the sake of the metaphor that the streams don’t completely cease to Exist. They become currents within the ocean. And so our individuality doesn’t completely get obliterated. But it becomes sort of a component within a much greater wholeness and initially the ocean might say, “I’m just the ocean. I don’t see any currents.” And conversely the current might say, “All I see is the ocean. I’ve lost any sort of sense of individuality.” But I think eventually, if you kind of delve into and become sensitive to the fine fabrics of what’s going on within consciousness, you discover all these currents and impulses of intelligence and dynamic things taking place within the oneness, within the wholeness. What do you think of that metaphor?
Kavitha: Yeah, I love it. I love it and that’s absolutely beautiful. And that’s really the crux of this path is that there is the oneness but there is also the uniqueness in which that oneness expresses itself.
Rick: Yeah, in which and through which.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, so getting back to my notes here. This is still in the Kali chapter of your book. As Kundalini touches each chakra, hidden issues surfaces so that they can be resolved. I thought that was just interesting, you know, worth discussing a bit. So I can elaborate on the question but I think you know what I’m talking about. So go for it.
Kavitha: Yeah. So, you know, when we think of Kundalini and I think this is where we really must define what Kundalini is because we somehow think of Kundalini as, you know, this some kind of a huge energetic experience and then you’re all blissed out thereafter and so on. But that’s not really it, you know. The Kundalini is said to be active in the Tantric traditions when you develop what in Advaita Vedanta is known as mumukshottvam, you know, the burning desire for awakening, where it becomes the primordial focus of your life, you know. That’s when the Kundalini is said to be active. You may not have all these energetic experiences. You may not like, you know, have all this buzzing and the vibration and stuff. And, of course, a lot of people have that but that isn’t really it.
Rick: I think the roughness and smoothness of it depends to a certain extent upon how impeded it is, you know. If there’s a lot of blockages, then there can be a lot of intensity as those blockages are cleared and other people hardly notice anything going on at all.
Kavitha: Absolutely. And so it all has to do with the nadis because, you know, where the obstructions may be in the subtle body and so the chakras are really the confluence of these nadis at specific points and the hundreds of them throughout the subtle body. But we are usually think of the chakras along the spine and so this the activated Kundalini energy which directs our desire for awakening, you know, goes up the spine, so to speak. And so traditionally in the Tantric traditions and even the yoga traditions, we talk about these chakras as hosting or having certain properties where certain issues are stored, you know, in the psyche. And so when that energy touches that, then all of those issues come really, you know, surfacing into our awareness. And so, for instance, you know, if you have a long-term meditation practice it becomes really easy to see this is where the kinds of thoughts and the kinds of things that happen during meditation actually changes from day to day. And the focus of it actually changes over time, you know, whereas sometimes it’s while it may have been about, “Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get this technique right. I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be doing and so on. Why am I even doing this and I’m fine. I don’t need to do this, I have other things to do.” So it’s all like, you know, in the lower chakras so to speak, but then as we keep meditating and that inner silence becomes, our, you know, seeped in, then the issues become more and more and more subtle. It’s like, you know, we’re asking the more existential questions. It’s like, you know, if I’m not this, what is my property? What am I? Who am I? And so on. So that means that the energy is going up. So as the energy actually touches each of these chakras, then we are forced to confront, you know, these issues. And so, you know, this is probably something you have noticed over your years of teaching meditation, is somehow when we come to this path we think everything is going to be solved. You know, all our problems are going to be solved and it’s all going to be one smooth thing. And then we discover that, “my gosh,” you know, “this isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” Then we go through intense periods of purification and intense periods of upheaval.
Rick: Yeah, that’s not part of the initial sales pitch.
Kavitha: Yeah, but you know that’s really what happens and those periods of upheaval are where the Kundalini is touching those chakras, opening them, so those issues can be resolved.
Rick: Yeah, there was a phrase that I probably heard Maharishi repeat a thousand times and that was “something good is happening.” You know, when people are going through these really intense things especially on long meditation courses, six-month courses and stuff, he would always say over and over, “something good is happening, just stay with it.”
Kavitha: Yes, exactly, yeah. So that’s that whole, you know, I call it the washing machine effect when I, my students.
Rick: You know what a Venn diagram is, right?
Rick: Where you have like two circles and they overlap a little bit but not entirely. So if we take Vedanta and Tantra as two circles, to what extent do they overlap and diverge if you think of them as a Venn diagram?
Kavitha: They overlap to a large extent, a very large extent. But there are some fundamental differences between, you know, Vedanta and Tantra. And for instance in Vedanta, you know, even if you look at the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, Brahman doesn’t do anything. You know, Brahman is not the doer, Brahman just is. You know, and it’s like saying awareness doesn’t do anything, which is really our experience as well, which is there are no creative powers attributed to Brahman. So in Vedanta, you know, we differentiate Brahman from Ishvara. So Ishvara is the creator, but Brahman is pure, untouched, cannot do anything. Whereas in Tantra, there is no such differentiation. So Shiva and Shakti together are endowed with the creative potency. So they have these five functions of creating and sustaining and destroying and concealing and revealing. So they are inherent qualities of, you know, the divine. So that is like one fundamental difference between the two and there are other fundamental differences. You know, a lot of people think that in Advaita Vedanta there remains the separation between the, you know, the Maya which doesn’t exist and all that exists is Brahman. And that is, I think, only part of the story because I think that is a misunderstanding of Advaita Vedanta. Because even Shankara doesn’t say that Maya doesn’t exist. He says Maya doesn’t exist as we think it does. You know, the classic example is the rope and the snake, that it doesn’t exist the way we think it does. But we can get stuck between that and seeing that Brahman is the only reality and Maya simply doesn’t exist and that is still a duality there. Whereas Tantra resolves that right from the beginning. There is, you know, Maya. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, everything is real.
Rick: Yeah, well, you remember what Shankara said. He said, you know, the world is Maya, Brahman alone is real, Brahman is Maya, Brahman is the world, you know.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly.
Rick: And Shankara, incidentally, wasn’t he a Kali worshiper or was that Ramakrishna? But he was some aspect of Mother Divine. He was a devotee.
Kavitha: Oh, yeah. He was very much a mother devotee and, you know, he was a worshipper of the Sri Yantra. And a lot of people attribute him to have written the Soundarya Lahiri which is the, you know, the absolute magnificent, very lush text describing the Tantric worship and visualization of the Goddess. So some people say that’s not the same Shankara. But some people think it’s the same Shankara.
Rick: Okay, but it’s worth mentioning that in passing simply because, I mean, all these great non-dual teachers that we revere, both ancient and modern, were devotees of something rather.
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: You know, every single one. Papaji and Ramana and Nisargadatta and Shankara going back then, there wasn’t a complete dismissal of all vestiges of duality as unworthy of our attention. There was a sort of, in fact Shankara said that the intellect imagines duality for the sake of devotion. So even if he acknowledges that duality exists intellectually at least, he considers it to have a purpose.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely. And you know, this is something I just discovered recently which I didn’t know. And, you know, Shankara actually established all the Shankar Maths, you know, in India. And I’ve been to a couple of them actually. But I didn’t know this, that he actually established the tradition of daily worship of the Sri Yantra in the Math which is very secret. But it needs to go on four times a day all the time. You know, all the time and there is that worship aspect of it in an Advaitic center.
Rick: Is Sri Yantra part of Sri Vidya? And the reason I ask is that Maharishi’s teacher Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was a worshiper or a practitioner of Sri Vidya. And he ended up becoming Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath for the first time in ages. They hadn’t had a Shankaracharya for a couple hundred years or something. And they got him to do it. But anyway, I found that interesting. I don’t know much about Sri Vidya. Would it be nice to, I mean, would it be interesting to tell people about that or should we save our time for talking more about your book and the Mahavidyas and all?
Kavitha: I think it’s worth mentioning, just in passing at least, because the Mahavidyas are also part of the Sri Vidya tradition. And that’s how I was introduced to them in my Sri Vidya Upasaka role. And so Sri Vidya is actually, Sri means auspicious, Vidya is knowledge. So Sri Vidya is auspicious knowledge and it is the particular path to liberation where liberation manifests as the goddess Tripura Sundari. And she is the third of the Mahavidyas in the book. And so she is the central goddess and she is the creator, she is the sustainer, and she is the destroyer of everything. So it is the path to her and the path involves mantra. And, you know, it’s a Tantric path. So it also involves yantra and specific rituals and practices that lead us to goddess Tripura Sundari.
Rick: I just want to say again, as we said in the beginning, that all this talk of worshipping goddesses and all shouldn’t be trivialized or dismissed as some quaint, you know, mythical indulgence or something like that. We’re really talking about a deeper mechanics here which can be extremely potent and powerful and transformational to those who engage in it properly.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely. And the thing about the yantras, I just want to say this because my Tantra teachers, you know, particularly don’t really recommend worshipping of yantras. They think it’s not necessary because the yantras begin to manifest in our own experience as our neural pathways change. So actually these yantras are external manifestations of these, you know, the neural pathways within the brain. And that happens automatically and there is no real need to worship external, you know, yantras or do any external rituals. It’s an entirely internal process where, you know, it changes our physiology and with the change these yantras actually start manifesting.
Rick: Interesting, so when we see these pictures of yantras they may have come from the actual cognitions of the people who originally painted them or drew them. That people saw this thing and then drew it out, right?
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely, all of them.
Rick: Interesting. I was going to say something but now I forget what it was. Oh yeah, I know what it was. You know a lot of mantras have what are called the bija mantra in them, which as I understand it is somehow a name of a god or a goddess or some aspect of the Divine Mother and all. I’ve been using a mantra like that in one form or another for a long time. But I still don’t know a lot about the esoteric significance and mechanics of it. Is there anything you can say that would educate me on that and others?
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. So the bija mantra is actually, you know, each of them actually maps to a particular cosmic force, so to speak, And then, of course, the cosmic force is given a form of a deity. And so we think that it maps to that particular deity but actually the quality of the sound is such that you know it opens us because, you know, these bija mantras are derived from Sanskrit. And Sanskrit, you know, in certain traditions like the Sri Vidya Sadhana or Kashmir Shaivism, there is this whole concept of Matrika Shakti where each syllable in Sanskrit actually maps to a different point in consciousness, a different aspect of consciousness. So the bija mantras are those they actually map to certain points of our consciousness and opens us to the whole. So when you take combinations of these bija mantras in specific sequences, which is really what Sri Vidya does, then you open in certain ways to that consciousness, you know, through different aspects of it. And then as a result of that, then the neural pathways change and the yantras start manifesting.
Rick: So when you say open to different aspects, could you think of it as there are a number of different bija mantras and do all roads lead to Rome? Could they be thought of as like spokes on a wheel which all lead to the hub? You take the one that works for you or is appropriate for you or something like that and then you follow it back to its source. And it has an influence that’s conducive to doing that.
Rick: There’s a whole discussion of the vibratory influence of these sounds as opposed to any meaning they may or may not have. But, you know, different sounds have different vibratory qualities. You scratch your fingernails down a blackboard that has one influence, you know. Beautiful flute melody has another and so these sounds are said to be conducive to the settling of the mind and body down to transcendence.
Kavitha: Yeah. And so, you know, that is really the cosmic force called Tara who’s the second Mahavidya.
Rick: Oh good, we should get another.
Kavitha: Yeah, so it’s a perfect segue into understanding mantras because she is the power behind all mantras. Because she represents the primordial vibration. And you know, in physics, if we want to loosely map it, and I just want to emphasize the word loosely, because may not really be so tight in terms of correlations, but, you know, the background microwave. What do you call that?
Rick: Yeah. The original radiation of the Big Bang which they discovered at Bell Labs, right?
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. So that’s something I think of as, you know, what Tara is, which is the primordial vibration which is the mother of all other vibrations that become forms. Yes, the Aum or I am or, you know, that is the primordial vibration. So all bija mantras actually lead to that primordial vibration. So they are all modifications of that primordial vibration. So Tara is the mother of mantras in the Mahavidya tradition.
Rick: Yeah. Have you ever heard the notion that using a mantra with Aum in it tends to make you more of a recluse? Have you ever heard that?
Rick: Do you believe that?
Kavitha: I have heard that and I have experienced that.
Rick: Have you?
Kavitha: Yes, yes, and it is really true and it is very profound.
Rick: So do you still use a mantra with Aum in it?
Kavitha: No, no. I was taught not to because I was using it for a while and it really makes you dissociate from stuff. And, you know, kind of not, yeah, but at different stages I would say.
Rick: And maybe different stages because, I mean, I had heard that and for decades used a mantra that didn’t have Aum in it. And then I got a mantra from Amma about 15, 18 years ago that did have Aum in it. I’ve been using that ever since and it hasn’t tended to make me more of a recluse. I wonder if it was that total BS.
Kavitha: No, I think it just depends on the stage. Because I kind of did that early on or you know what Yogani says is that, it’s more of an issue in the intermediate stages and of meditation practice. And, you know, as a beginner it won’t affect you. As you’re more advanced, it won’t affect you. But in the intermediate stages if you take that on too early, then it may not be the right thing for you.
Rick: I see. I think it also would depend on whether you’re just using Aum alone. Aum, Aum, Aum, or whether you’re using it in conjunction with the bija mantra and other aspects that mantras tend to have in them.
Kavitha: Yeah, exactly. And Aum as an external chanting thing is not the problem. It’s that, you know, using it to transcend the mind that is when it becomes an issue.
Rick: Okay, good. Well, we’re on this topic and this is an interesting discussion. I mean it’s like not your plain vanilla Batgap interview. We’re getting into all kinds of things that I haven’t really discussed much in other interviews, so I’m enjoying this. In the Tara part of your book you say, “Sound is the subtlest of the senses.” This is the principle behind mantra sadhana, And if you think about that, you know, I’ve heard it said that thoughts are a subtler aspect of the sense of hearing and you don’t really get that so much with other senses, although you might, you know, visualize dinner or get some taste of dinner in your mind’s eye. But we’re much more familiar with thoughts than we are with the subtler aspects of the other senses. And therefore, it would make sense that using the sense of hearing, namely, thought, in the form of a mantra, would be perhaps a more, well, an easier road to traverse than some of the other senses.
Kavitha: Yes, absolutely. So you’ve heard of the word tanmatra. You know, tanmatra is that subtle sense relating to a particular element.
Rick: I think indriyas comes in there someplace too, doesn’t it? The indriyas?
Kavitha: Indriyas, yes, exactly. So the indriyas are the external senses and the tanmatras are the, you know, the subtle sense, so to speak, and mediated by a particular element. And so there are the five elements. And so earth, for instance, it carries the tanmatra of smell. So it is the grossest of those tanmatras whereas sound is carried through by ether or space, akasha, which is the most subtle of the five elements. Yeah, so that’s why it’s the most subtle, you know, of the five senses because it is carried through by that akasha.
Rick: Okay, good, that’s interesting. Okay, so we’ve talked about anything more you want to say about Tara? With each of these Mahavidyas, you mentioned a shadow and a light aspect of them and her shadow is self-deception, her light is truth.
Kavitha: Yes, yes, so self-deception I think is interesting because, you know, it’s something that we kind of deal with in one form or other whether we are on the spiritual path or not. You know, ordinarily of course, we can understand that self-deception but even as we progress along the spiritual path, you know, this self-deception can be so subtle that we miss it entirely. And, you know, it comes through this, you know, most commonly through justification and validation of our actions and our thoughts and our feelings like on a constant basis. And still that goes on with that self-referential, you know, kind of a loop where I do something and I feel really validated or validated internally or externally or justified in one way or another. And so Tara actually cuts through that and it’s a very shocking thing when you do this Tara sadhana. And, you know, kind of she just like comes in and cuts through all of that. And, you know, it’s like she stands for absolute radical truth which is always staying true to your own experience and without any of that self-deception. So that’s how, you know, I kind of correlated that with the yamas and niyamas, you know, of truth being one of them.
Rick: That’s nice, always staying true to your own experience. I mean I’ve been guilty of not doing that many times and even in a metaphysical or philosophical sense, you know, just sort of pontificating about things which I haven’t actually experienced, you know.
Kavitha: Yeah, I think we all do that. Yeah, we do that and I think now especially in the day of the, in these days of the internet and easy access to information, it’s probably a little more, you know, easy to do that, to deceive ourselves into thinking one way or the other in terms of where we are.
Rick: Yeah, and it’s interesting about self-deception, too. Because, I mean, there’s that phrase the blinding darkness of ignorance, it’s in the Jesus saying. “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” And then there’s so many marvelous stories in the Vedic literature about Maya. You know, Like, who was it? Narayan asking his disciple to go off and get him a glass of water and he goes off and goes through this whole thing where he meets a pretty woman at the well and he’s marrying her and having kids and everything else and then this big flood comes and he cries out to Narayan. And all of a sudden the flood disappears and Narayan is saying, “Well, where’s my water?” You know.
Kavitha: That’s exactly the story I was thinking of when we were talking about self-deception. Amazing. That’s sage Narada.
Rick: Narada, right, Narada.
Kavitha: Yeah. And you know there are stories actually of even Vishnu being self-deluded, you know, or his own stories of self-deception where, you know, he takes on the form of Mohini for a particular, you know, function. And then looks at himself in the mirror and thinks, “Oh my gosh, I’m so beautiful.” And Shiva needs to remind him, “Wait, you’re not even a woman. Forget Mohini.”
Rick: Yeah, well on this note, there’s a fascinating thing in your book about how you say that, you know, if it weren’t for self-deception, we wouldn’t really have a universe. And it’s a necessary sort of the creator, however, you want to define the creator, hides himself from himself or herself from herself in order to have a creation and it makes the whole thing more interesting than it would otherwise be.
Rick: And I’m not sure which of the Maha Shaktis.
Kavitha: That’s Chinnamasta.
Rick: Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit. It’s a bit of a jump from where we’re skipping some. But I’ve often pondered that and didn’t think of it in terms of a Mahavidya. That there has to be this hiding quality in order, which I think is perhaps a quality of Tamas or perhaps a quality of Chhandas, you know. Chhandas means hiding, in order for there to be a creation.
Kavitha: Yeah. And you know how earlier we were talking about the five functions of the divine, which is creating, sustaining, destroying, concealing, and revealing. So those are the five functions of the divine in the Tantric traditions. And so Chinnamasta represents both the concealing and the revealing power of the divine. And you know she’s the fiercest of the Mahavidyas. You know, more fierce than Kali because she’s the one that cuts her own head off and, you know, and her own head is feeding from the blood in her severed neck. So that beheading, that self-beheading, is very clear to see how the divine basically cuts itself off from its creation so that, you know, there is the sense of separation and the whole drama goes on. It’s like, you know, this very common metaphor we use in the spiritual path which is that of a play and actors in a play. And, you know, you’ve heard of these actors who actually live in character because, you know, that’s when their acting is so beautiful.
Rick: And they say that Leonardo DiCaprio stays in character in between takes because he doesn’t want to have to move in and out of it.
Kavitha: Yes, yes. And, you know, who is the actor who played Lincoln, one of my favorites?
Rick: Aaron Day Lewis?
Kavitha: Yes, yes. He’s magnificent and, you know, apparently he does that too where he stays in character the entire time because he becomes the character and that’s what makes his acting so powerful. And so he forgets his identity and he is the character and so that’s exactly like the analogy that we could use for the divine where is if it forgets its identity so that the play can be beautiful and engaging. And so that is the concealing power of Chinnamasta and then, of course, on the spiritual path she is also the great revealer. Because, you know, in that Kundalini goes up then it’s like a second beheading. But the beheading of the I-self, the identity or the engagement or the tight identification with the I-self, and so that’s the second beheading where you remember that, “Oh wait, I’m not Daniel Day Lewis, I’m so and so.” Or “I’m Lincoln, I’m Daniel Day Lewis” or you know, “I’m not this character.” So, yeah, I just love Chinnamasta. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful metaphor for this whole process.
Rick: Yeah, it’s fascinating and it’s like, it’s humbling. I mean, nobody is above it as we were just saying, even Vishnu got deluded and so on. So if you think that you’re incapable of being deluded or being overshadowed or kind of getting Lost, you might have a lesson to learn that won’t necessarily be enjoyable.
Kavitha: Yeah, and you know this is why I love those, you know, the Puranas so much. Because really, teachers, you know, they are very humbling. Because there are stories where Shiva himself gets deluded and, you know, or Devi, for instance. You know, Kali goes on this rampage in one story where nobody can stop her and absolutely nobody can stop her. So Shiva comes and lies down under her. And that’s the first time she wakes up. She’s like, “Oh this is my beloved” and, you know, wakes up. And then there’s another story where nobody can stop her again and she goes on this rampage and Shiva takes the form of a baby. And so suddenly she loses that rage and becomes this compassionate mother to this child. So it’s exactly as you say, that you know, none of us is above that.
Rick: Yeah. Several other stories come to mind right now about Shankara getting deluded and then snapping out of it but I don’t want to take the time to tell it.
Kavitha: Yes, with the Chandala.
Rick: Yeah, there was that one and there was the one where he kind of occupied the body of a king who had died in order to have the kind of experiences that only a king could Have. And then he kind of got so caught up in the role that he forgot that he was Shankara and his disciples went running there and started chanting one of his poems or something to remind him of who he was. Yeah, interesting. Here’s something in the Chinnamasta section of your book that jumped out at me that’s a little bit of an abrupt segue but related that “Dharma keeps us on the path of appropriate cultivation of sexual energy, virtue and wisdom. If we confuse our attachments and aversions for our Dharma, our creative and procreative energies are used up and we remain attached to the I-self.” So I like that.
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah. So you know one thing that is foreign to a lot of people who are not very familiar with these paths is this issue of finding your bliss. You know that “find your bliss” is a cliche. People think “find your bliss” means “do what you want.”
Rick: Which is not what Joseph Campbell meant when he said that.
Kavitha: Exactly, exactly. But we kind of confuse our likes and dislikes for what we must be doing, you know, what are the dharmas. And so we get so caught up in that, that you Know, this energy, the Kundalini energy that we were talking about which is this burning desire for waking up is activated. That doesn’t simply happen because the prana is getting diffused into all these other channels, you know, of our likes and dislikes and where our senses are constantly roaming around where that energy is used up. And it so happens that this Kundalini energy is a primordial sexual energy as well. And we can’t cultivate that to, you know, go up in terms of the achieving that beheading, that second beheading that Chinnamasta is representing. So, you know, the two attendants that stand by her are like the two others. So, you know, in the traditional yoga or Tantric traditions there is the Sushumna, the central nadi that goes along the spine. And then the Ida and Pingala which are the two side channels where the energy goes and they kind of loop around like the, you know, symbol of medicine. And so what happens is when we are not aligned with dharma and we are following the bliss in our misinformed way of following the bliss which we think is associated with our likes and dislikes and chasing our senses, then the energy gets diffused and goes is directed more through the Ida and Pingala rather than the Sushumna. And so the Ida and Pingala are opposites, you know they are. One is the hot channel, one is the cold channel, one is the sympathetic corresponds to the sympathetic system, one to the parasympathetic. So like our likes and dislikes, you know, they are the channels of duality. So they continue to switch between, you know, joy and pain and, you know, all the dualities that we get affected by. And so that energy, that very powerful sexual energy which is, you know, part of this kundalini energy, gets diffused in that. And so, you know, the ashrama system of the ancient times was developed actually for appropriate cultivation of this energy so that it could be directed more into the central channel, so that we could, you know, be liberated in our lifetime. So and in the ashrama system the dharma is actually very easy to follow. If we follow the ashrama system, and that means, you know, as a child your duty is to study, as long as you’re a student your primary dharma is to focus on whatever learning that is taking place. And only then are you capable of going into this householder life. And as a householder then, you know, the energy is explored in appropriate ways. And then with retirement then that energy has, if it has been explored and if it has been used appropriately, then the thinking is that it would have subsided by then and could be used. By then, the energy has gone up to the higher chakras where the thinking has changed and our worries are more in the metaphysical realm. And then the sannyasa where the energy goes up even further and then we are in that mode of self-knowledge and self-realization.
Rick: And what about those who become monks and don’t go through these four stages. How do they deal with it?
Kavitha: Yeah. So, you know, in the ashrama system of the old very few people actually were even encouraged to become monks and only if they had that samskara of being a monk where they had signs of already having that work through all stuff. Because, you know, if being a monk is something that we develop like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita where he says in the first chapter “I don’t want this war. I just want to be a monk” and Krishna says no, nothing doing. That’s not your dharma.” Right? Yeah. That’s not your dharma. Because if we are trying to be a renunciate because we are trying to escape life, then that doesn’t really work because then that energy is still there and it can’t be faked. If there is nowhere for it to go and you see that in a lot of institutions where, you know, celibacy is forced and it’s …
Rick: Catholic Church. I mean, what a mess.
Kavitha: Yeah. And so anything that’s forced like that has to be expressed and it becomes expressed in a dharmic way.
Rick: Interesting. The Gita says you know because one can perform at one’s own dharma the lesser and merit is better than the dharma of another.
Kavitha: Yes, swadharma.
Rick: Better is death than one’s own dharma.
Kavitha: Yes, swadharma is it. And so along this line of dharma is the issue of our gunas. You know, so what is my dharma as opposed to yours is really determined by our combination of gunas. And so in the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, you know, Krishna talks about these four categorizations of society of occupation or vocation.
Rick: Which is a nasty subject because you’re touching upon the caste system here which is, you know …
Kavitha: Oh yeah. The caste system is a complete distortion of really what it’s supposed to be. Because our gunas change and so our vocations may change with that.
Rick: So you can go from being a street sweeper to a doctor theoretically.
Kavitha: Or you can still be a street sweeper but, you know, your gunas have changed where you are no longer performing that job for whatever the original intention was. And as our gunas change, we actually change and become more evolved as we progress along the path. So I’m really not, you know, most Hindus will tell you that the caste system is a complete distortion and not at all really what it was supposed to be.
Rick: I’m sure like many things. Like pretty much every religious tradition in the world which is probably a far cry from what its founder had intended.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Rick: Okay, so we’re skipping over some of these. So we’ve touched upon Tara. I think we’ve touched a little bit about Tripura Sundari. And there’s Bhuvaneshwari and Tripura Bhavari. We won’t have time to spend a lot of time on all of them but and then there’s this whole section towards the end of your book where you talk about elements of the path of the Mahavidyas- devotion, single-pointedness, austerity, surrender, experience, language, bliss. So that was like a 30-second overview of the stuff we haven’t talked about in your book. And then there’s a beautiful thing about opening further through ethics and virtues, yamas and niyamas, and self- after self- after self-realization. So we could go on another two hours talking about all that stuff. But everything I just rambled out, what catches your attention that you’d like us to discuss in our remaining time?
Kavitha: Perhaps about the issue of ethics and I know you did this whole panel at SAND last year.
Rick: It was my talk, my own talk and next year I think we’re going to have a panel.
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a very important subject because I think there is a lot of misunderstanding that somehow becoming awakened will instill you with all the ethics. And that it’s just going to happen magically, spontaneously, even if you haven’t really cultivated that. And some of it happens spontaneously because when you come from a sense of wholeness, but a lot of it doesn’t. And I think that’s a good thing to discuss.
Rick: Yeah, let’s do. I think it’s important. And it was very much in the air last year at SAND after I gave my talk, a bunch of people, other teachers came to me and said, “You know, we were touching on that in our talks, let’s all sit down and discuss this. There needs to be some kind of higher standard in the spiritual community because there’s just been too much misbehavior and people are sick of it.”
Rick: Oh, but Irene says people are getting sick of me harping on it too. So, but let’s talk, because I’m always griping about teachers behaving badly.
Kavitha: Okay, now we don’t have to talk.
Rick: Heck with them. We’re still going to talk about it a little bit.
Kavitha: Yeah, I think, you know, I really love Greg’s book “After Awareness” because he touches a lot on that.
Rick: Yeah, I read that chapter. He sent it to me in preparation for my talk and we were chatting back and forth a little bit about it.
Kavitha: Yeah, and I think that’s very, I think it is as touchy as it may be. I think it is a very important thing to really talk about, especially also in the context of Tantra. Because, you know, I think Tantra is misunderstood, as you know, as this path that is about licentiousness. You can, everything goes.
Rick: Yeah, you can drink, you can do whatever, carry on.
Kavitha: Yeah, but that is not the case actually. And I go into that in a little bit in detail in the last Mahavidya, in the chapter on Kamalatmika on who really is qualified to explore with some of the forbidden, you know, practices. And who isn’t and why not, you know, and so, and in the name of Tantra, for instance, there are five substances, forbidden substances or practices that people really quote about or talk about in Tantra. Which is consumption of alcohol or meat and fish and, you know, a parched grain and sexual practices. And so, you can see how, you know, if a text tells you that you can practice with that, then, you know, in our ordinary way of thinking, we’re thinking, “Wait, wait.” Where all the other paths are saying, “Don’t do that,” and this is telling you, “Do it. I’m just going to go all out and do that.” But the text actually, like the Mahanirvana Tantra, for instance, goes into detail about who is a qualified seeker, who can do that, and one who is already established in awareness and is working on what you might call the post-enlightenment sadhana, where, you know, you are working to remain stable in that awareness while exploring those substances. And so, but in the name of Tantra, there is a lot of letting go of ethics, you know, where teachers may be behaving inappropriately with students and teaching them that that is okay to do that.
Rick: Using it as an alibi.
Kavitha: Using it as a kind of a crutch to fulfill their own, you know, needs or their own, you know, wherever that place that they feel need to feel fulfilled from. So, I think that’s in particularly in the Tantric paths. This cultivation of the ethics is really, really important and developing that discrimination, you know, that which is the foundation of Advaita Vedanta, you know, the two wings of Jnana are discrimination and non-attachment, viveka and vairagya. And both are necessary in order to explore further with any of those substances but then very important for the teacher to, you know, to develop those ethics.
Rick: Yeah, some people say that, you know, awakening and ethical behavior have nothing to do with one another. You can be an enlightened scoundrel and you can’t judge a person’s level of consciousness by their external behavior. And other people hold the model that, you know, higher levels of consciousness or enlightenment really involves cultivation not only of sort of inner awareness of pure consciousness but a complete housecleaning of all of one’s human tendencies so that they become pure, one’s vasanas, so that, you know, you really do become saintly. And you hear people saying, you know, saintliness has nothing to do with enlightenment and you shouldn’t judge it by outer behavior. So, what’s your perspective on that conundrum?
Kavitha: Well, you know, I think there are two aspects to this. One is that, you know, anything that is forced externally, including ethics, becomes a problem. Right? And so I think that’s where a lot of the rebellion comes from. It’s like, don’t tell me what to do, because it’s forced upon us. But you know, what I’m suggesting in this book and in my own sadhana is that the cultivation of ethics, particularly the yamas and niyamas, when we look at them from a more non-dual aspect and, you know, look at them from a subtler and subtler perspectives, then those actually change. And so, you know, it’s like moving from the shadow to the light, you know, moving from those tendencies into those where we can live those ethics without really talking about them, without really being enforced and those just happen. But if we pay attention to those particular shadows and, you know, as I was saying earlier, that is actually the difference between Tantra and other paths where refinement of the body-mind to be in accordance with our highest understanding is really part of the path.
Rick: Yeah. I’ve come to the conclusion just from my own life experience over the past 50 years and from my Batgap experience over the past eight years that everybody is a work in progress.
Rick: That’s such a comfortable conclusion to reach. Because if you look at this or that teacher and think, “Well, this guy really knows where it’s at, you know, he’s really got it all figured out,” and then he or she does something that seems wrong, you can get you into trouble. Firstly, you can become disillusioned. Or you might think, “Well, who am I, ignorant schmo, to judge this enlightened person, so therefore, I must excuse and allow this kind of wrong behavior,” that kind of thing. But if you kind of have the attitude that everybody is a work in progress, you think, “All right, well, this guy has some work to do in this particular area. He may have great gifts and radiate wonderful Shakti and so on and so forth.” But that doesn’t mean that on all counts there has been complete development to the highest degree possible.
Kavitha: Yeah, I love that and that’s how I feel too, is that we’re all works in progress. And I think that touches upon this issue of the guru. You know, the role of the guru because we get disillusioned when we are attached to the teacher rather than the teaching. You know, and so it is the more we get attached to the finger pointing to the moon, then the more chances there are of forming opinions one way or the other about that person. Whereas, you know, if our sights are always on the moon, then we realize that everything else is really not that important. You know, what somebody does or what somebody doesn’t do and as long as we are, our sight is on the highest always.
Rick: Yeah. It’s like if one goes to study chemistry, for instance, you know, in college. One’s orientation is, “Oh, my chemistry teacher is so wonderful,” you know, it’s like, “I’m interested in chemistry and this guy knows about it and he’s teaching me and I appreciate and respect him for doing that.” But the focus is on the chemistry, you know. But in spirituality, part of the complication is that surrender to the Guru has often been, you know, requirement or advocated as essential to really learning what the Guru has to teach in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a chemistry teacher. You know, he wouldn’t say, “Surrender to me and I will give you all my knowledge,” although you do have to cooperate and do the tests and pay attention in the lectures. So that almost in a way it sets up the possibility of difficulty if it’s in the wrong hands. You know, I mean in the right hands, I imagine it can be a beautiful thing. In the wrong hands, it can be abused.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, that actually my friend and I were talking about this just yesterday with this whole issue of the inner guru. And I wrote about that in the book. And we are always taught in Vedanta, for instance, that your guru is going to always be a manifestation of where you are at any given stage. And so your outer guru is always a reflection of really what your heart’s desire is. Right? And on the spiritual path and I guess for me, you know, I’m really not the kind that subscribes to this whole surrender to the guru at all costs kind of a thing. But I understand the teaching, surrender to the teaching. But that may not necessarily be the teacher and so my gurus and my teachers have always been ones who have kept themselves out of it and have always pointed to the moon and said, “Focus on that, not me.” And so that’s worked out well for me.
Rick: It also depends on how we define surrender. If it’s some kind of slavish, mindless, you know, will-less kind of subservience where you put aside your own good judgment. I mean there’s that great quote from the Buddha. He says, “Don’t believe anything anybody says and even if I say it, if it doesn’t, you know, jive with your own understanding and common sense and so on.” So, you know, we have to define surrender for making these kinds of comments.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, this is the thing. Whether it is with Vedanta or with Tantra, you know, the fundamental thing that is emphasized is, you know, you have to cultivate your own sense…
Kavitha: And that is like the most important thing because that is your guiding light. And the surrender should be to that and, you know, even Shankara says in the Viveka Chudamani, what really devotion is, who the devotion should be to, and it should be to the highest, you know. Which is the self with the capital S. So, that is the highest kind of devotion and, you know, the guru is just a…the teacher is just the external person driving you to that. But your sights are always on the self. And so discernment and discrimination, you know, Viveka is the most important.
Rick: Yeah, so maybe a concluding point on this one is that any teacher worth his salt is going to do everything he can to help you cultivate discernment and discrimination. He is not going to violate your tendency to be discerning or discriminating and, you know, say, you know, “Do as I say, not as I do” or any kind of nonsense like that. He is going to help you, you know. He is going to allow questioning and not set himself up as infallible or beyond reproach or anything like that. But sort of be humble and open.
Kavitha: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah and, you know, it’s like I tell my children is, you know, and this is something that as a mother of two daughters and telling them, you know, “you need to trust your own self first.” And I also teach them for instance, you know, “you don’t have any responsibility for making me happy” or, you know, “that’s not your job.” Making me happy is my job, for instance. However, that doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want because you still need to live in harmony. Right? You need to still learn to live in harmony and so it is with awakening and living in the world. You know, if you’re awakened on a mountaintop, who cares? You know, you can behave as you want. But if you’re living in society, then we still need to be able to live in harmony and I think that’s where these ethical issues come in.
Rick: Yeah. When we were talking earlier about, you know, Dharma and the good versus the pleasant and so on. I just wanted to throw in the story of Nachiketas, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, where it seems to be the conclusion of that story was he refused all these things that were just merely pleasurable. Because he wanted the truth, which is not to say that we should all abstain from any form of pleasure. But it’s a matter of priorities, it seems to me.
Rick: And if we hold adherence to truth and Dharma as our highest priority, then everything else kind of falls into place and gets properly ordered.
Kavitha: Yeah, and that is really the whole essence of Chinnamasta, you know. It’s saying, you know, “stick to that first and then the other things will fall into place.”
Rick: Yeah, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all shall be added unto thee.”
Rick: A question came in from Mark Peters in Santa Clara. Mark is a regular viewer of the live interviews and almost always asks the question. He said, “Can you speak about the Divine Feminine’s role in establishing a sustainable relationship with the planet? Are global warming, deforestation, rampant consumerism, etc. largely symptomatic of the disconnected “hypermentation” that characterizes the masculine?”
Kavitha: Yeah. So that’s a great question and thank you for bringing that up because I just want to talk a little bit about that. Because it’s very important and when we make this dichotomous division between the masculine and the feminine, we somehow remember that division too is in our minds. Because the Divine has no gender. The Divine isn’t dichotomous and Shiva and Shakti are always one and when, if we talk about Shiva as a masculine force and we say Shiva is attributeless and everything in creation is Shakti. So the issue of the negative aspects, the destructive aspects are also Shakti. But that’s her shadow side. And so the role of the Divine Feminine is not that it’s a masculine side that needs to be addressed. It is the shadow side of Shakti that needs to be addressed because all of that is also Shakti. And so it doesn’t matter whether we are men or women. You know, all these shadow aspects are still Shakti whether we are male or female. And so the aspect of the Divine Feminine coming into the, you know, the role of the Divine Feminine in terms of cultivating better world is one of cultivating the light of Shakti. Which is a, you know, all the different collaborative kinds of qualities and the beauty of the Divine Feminine or the beauty of the Feminine in general is that. It’s not about the individual and so this obsessive, you know, attachment to the individual. For instance, when I first came to the US, I would hear people say, “Think about number one, you have to think about number one.” And it didn’t really make sense to me. I’m like, “What is number one?” I didn’t even know what that was. But it’s a very highly individual kind of thing, you know. Everybody is looking out for themselves and we think that’s the masculine side. That left-brained, hyper-dominant, go-getting, efforting kind of a thing, we assign that to be a masculine quality. But in reality it’s the shadow of Shakti. So what we need to develop is the light of Shakti and so then the individual is part of the whole as Kali shows us in her iconography where everything is interconnected. And so the more we align with that, we understand that there is nothing that a person in Nairobi is doing that is not going to affect me. You know, them taking a sip of coffee is going to affect me in imperceptible ways. So we are all connected in this web and not just the earth, the whole of creation. And so the more we step into her light, the more we kind of step away from that aggressiveness and that, you know, the violent aspect which is as we talked about the shadow of Kali.
Rick: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. It seems like the more unified we become, the more we appreciate the oneness or the wholeness of life, the less we could stand to defile the environment or, you know, harm other people in any way whatsoever. Because we’re really defiling ourselves. The Amazon is our lungs and the rivers are our blood. And, you know, we’re kind of spoiling our own nest by…
Kavitha: Yeah, yeah. And you know in the Sri Vidya tradition, you know, we think of the goddess where the creation is her body, exactly as you said. You know, the Amazon is our lungs. So that’s exactly how we visualize the Devi which is hard to visualize, you know. All of this is her body and so that’s why this devotion is so important. Because it’s like, you know, when you’re devoted to something you are less likely to defile it. It’s like, I’m so devoted as a mother to my children that their highest good is always, you know, my goal.
Rick: And you don’t have to think about that. It’s instinctual and, you know, what we were just saying becomes instinctual too. You know, the sort of appreciation of the Vasudeva Kutumbakam, I think it’s said, the world is my family. It’s not just a, you know, a nice little concept. It becomes your kind of intuitive way of functioning, you know.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. And that is the real, you know, the real essence of the path of the Goddess is that developing that softness. And, you know, that’s more of that parasympathetic activity and that surrender and that being okay. We’re kind of conditioned to work through effort and, you know, it’s like “go, go, go, get what I want at the cost of everything else.” So just surrendering all of that in softness and sweetness is her light.
Rick: Yeah. And when you think about it, you know, maybe if we equate the Goddess with nature itself, nature is a huge, powerful, invincible force which is conducting, nature in the biggest sense, conducting the whole universe in its minute detail without an effort. And so you use the word surrender. If we can surrender to or align ourselves or tune ourselves to that intelligence of nature which I believe is embodied by all these Mahavidyas, then Brahman becomes a charioteer. Then they become the driving force of our life and we can just sort of relax in the chariot and enjoy the ride.
Kavitha: Yeah. And, you know, the ironic thing is it’s already always the case, right? They are driving it anyway. It’s just we think we have control.
Rick: Right, so we keep interfering with their attempts to drive.
Rick: Yeah, good. Okay, well I think we’re about done, although we could be never done. As I was reading your book, I was thinking, you know, this is one of those books where I wish we could kind of take a month and read each paragraph and then discuss it, read another one and then discuss it, you know. But that’s not really quite the purpose of an interview. So it is sort of a taste or a sampling. So I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and I’m sure we’ll be connecting again. Are you going to Sand in the fall?
Kavitha: I hope so.
Rick: Good, I’ll be there. And you mentioned you might even come to Fairfield at some point. So that’ll be lovely if you come to Fairfield.
Kavitha: Yes, I’d love to. I’d love to come.
Rick: Yeah, so I encourage people to check out this book. I really learned a lot from it and really enjoyed it. I’ll have a link to it on Kavitha’s page on batgap.com. And then your new book is more about health, you said.
Kavitha: Well actually it’s called The Heart of Wellness and the heart here refers to awareness, the heart, the great heart.
Rick: That being the most important component in wellness?
Kavitha: Of wellness, yes. And how do you bring medicine and spirituality together and how do we define, what happens to our relationship with health and with disease when you enter the heart? And so that’s really what that book is about.
Rick: Yeah, and I would say even if you end up getting a disease like Ramana for instance, you know people would say, “Oh Ramana, you’re suffering.” And I’m not suffering, you know. This isn’t touching me.
Kavitha: Yes, exactly. So you know that’s really the crux of that is suffering is optional. Because, you know, in traditional medicine, we equate disease with suffering. And, you know, you talk about papers and stuff and we look at academic papers where they say, you know, “we have decreased disease and suffering” and I would beg to defer and say we’ve decreased disease but not necessarily suffering. So two different things and, yeah, so that’s really delving more into, you know, how do we get there, you know, enter the heart of wellness and through principles of Ayurveda and yoga and Vedanta. So that’s what that is.
Rick: Good. All right, well, thank you so much. Really enjoyed speaking with you and we will do it again sometime.
Kavitha: Thank you.
Rick: Yeah. So just to make some general concluding remarks, I’ve been speaking with Kavitha Chennaiyan, MD. I’ll be linking to her website from her page on batgap.com and you can go there and see what she’s up to and get in touch probably. You do some kinds of … Do you do anything remotely with people aside from your local practice as a physician? Do you do spiritual satsangs or consultations over Skype or do you offer retreats or any of that kind of stuff?
Kavitha: Yeah, I do actually. And I have a course coming up on Shakti Rising where we will be exploring all the Mahavidyas. It’s a 12-week course. It’s all online and it’s coming up and starts end of February. And it’s a 12-week course. And then later this year, I’ll be doing a course on the heart of wellness. And then I have some mini courses just before Navratri, you know, do the whole Navratri course and then retreats and intensives and workshops. And later this year, you know, I’m planning a Shakti Yatra, actually going to India to specific Shakti Peethams and really practicing with the deities at those places.
Rick: Yeah. It’s funny. This image just came to me because you do all these things. Here you are this medical doctor and then you’re doing all these courses and you have your own spiritual practice and this and that. I kind of pictured you as one of these deities with four or six arms, you know, doing all this stuff at once. I don’t know how you managed all that. You’ve got the teenage daughters and the whole writing books all the time.
Kavitha: Yeah, you know, it’s Shakti doing that. It’s your creative flow.
Rick: Alrighty. Well, thanks and those listening or watching, you probably watched my interviews before but if you haven’t go to batgap.com. And if you want to sign up to be notified of new ones, just click on the little email notification link. Sign up for the audio podcast if you like to listen to things while you’re commuting and stuff. You could also subscribe to the YouTube channel, that’s always helpful. The more subscribers I have, the more seriously YouTube takes me and helps me. So do that if you haven’t and we’ll see you next week. Thanks, Kavitha.
Kavitha: Thank you.
Rick: Alright, thanks.
Kavitha: Thank you.
Rick: Alright, thanks.