Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews, conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done 560 something of them now. If this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to www.batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. We don’t do advertising or anything aside from those little annoying ads that pop up on YouTube. So if you feel like, you know, if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of www.batgap.com and also a page about other ways to donate if you don’t like to use PayPal. My guest today is Paul Mueller Ortega. Hang on a second. There we go. Welcome Paul, good to see you again.
Paul: Great to see you Rick, wonderful. Thank you for having me back here.
Rick: Yeah, Paul was on about three years ago and just this week I listened to that first interview and I’ve done so many of these that I forget what’s in them, but it was such a wealth of information that he brought forth and I didn’t talk very much at all, which some people like very much. And I felt, listening to it, I felt I could listen to this 30 times and keep getting new tidbits out of it. Another thing I didn’t realize when I did that interview with Paul, but he told me afterwards, he and I met in, like, 1971 or so at a prep school in Connecticut. And so that’s kind of cool, we’ve come full circle here.
Paul: Many years, indeed.
Rick: Incidentally, I should introduce Paul properly. Paul is the founder of Blue Throat Yoga, which is an internationally recognized meditation He is an internationally recognized meditation teacher and one of the world’s most highly respected academic scholars in the field of Indian religion and Hindu Tantra. You don’t need these glasses after all. Paul is passionate and devoted to teaching students how to access their truest self and to offer the knowledge base to understand and support that experience. He has led hundreds of meditation retreats, offered a vast array of study courses, translated and provided commentary on many of the most inspired sacred texts of the Shaiva-Shakta tradition, and has personally trained over 40 people as authorized teachers of Neelakantha meditation. And I kind of like it that you’ve only trained 40. That strikes me as being a quality control thing. That’s good. I mean, if it said you’d train hundreds and hundreds, you’d be like, “Eh, I don’t know.” I’ll just continue on for a bit here. Paul is uniquely qualified to offer these potent teachings, drawing upon the synergy of his long career as an academic scholar, his particular capacity to translate complex ideas and concepts into easily accessible and comprehensible understanding, and a personal history of deep meditation and extensive practice in the Shaiva-Shakta Tantra tradition. So now the Shaiva-Shakta Tantra tradition is basically Kashmir Shaivism, right?
Paul: Yeah, I mean that’s one of the terms that’s used sort of typically in talking about this tradition. The term Kashmir Shaivism is a little problematic for a variety of reasons that are maybe not so interesting except to scholars. So trying to be a little bit more precise about where this tradition emerges and the particular configuration. It’s a series of texts that are called Shaiva, that is to say, because they’re considered to be revealed scriptures or Agamas or Tantras that have been spoken by Shiva, but then much of the content of those texts is actually centered on a series of symbolic goddesses. So the sadhanas or complex practices that are being taught or alluded to in those texts then center on these symbolic forms of various kinds of goddesses. We’re talking about the 10th, 11th century approximately, the most famous teacher being this amazing author and teacher by the name of Prajanaka Abhinavagupta, lived approximately Yeah.
Rick: And by revealed you mean that they weren’t just fabricated or composed by human beings. They were somehow more primordial than that and were then cognized, but they already existed prior to their cognition.
Paul: Well, that’s the claim in the tradition. So you have a differentiation between texts that are designated Agama, that is to say, what has come forward, or Tantras, the essential teaching as it were that have this character of not being attributable to any one individual human being, and then you have texts that are sort of commentaries on those. And Abhinavagupta is the one who comments on the Agamas in great detail. His most famous work is known as the Tantra Loka, Light on the Tantras. So he stands in relationship to a very complex and rich body of hundreds of scriptural texts at that time that are, yes, have no supposed human author, but they must have come through somebody, you know.
Rick: Yeah. And you know, you and I were both students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi early on, and he used to always say that what he was teaching had been lost and that it was now being revived. Is there something like that in Kashmir Shaivism also?
Paul: Well, I think that, I mean, it’s sort of a rich question around this. You have these medieval traditions of practice and of initiation and different groupings and lineage streams of great masters going back probably to at least the fifth or the sixth century. And in Kashmir, extending up to the time that Islam comes and everything falls apart there, which is about the 12th, 13th century, dated differently by different historians and so on. And then, you know, the tradition that Abhinavagupta is, sort of, the prime highest teacher in, disappears to all intents and purposes as an initiatory lineage. It survives in terms of these extraordinary texts and the theory that he proposes in those texts which are disseminated pretty much all over India. And you find manuscripts of his texts in libraries all over India. And clearly you find the sort of ideological or philosophical traces of what he articulates. So he’s extraordinarily accomplished and has an extraordinary impact, but not necessarily directly through the tradition that he represented as a living tradition. So it dies out. And then the question is, you know, how does that tradition get revived? And of course we have in the modern period, this figure of Swami Lakshmanji, who is considered to be the 20th century revivalist of this tradition.
Rick: So did he revive Nilakanta meditation, Swami Lakshmanji?
Paul: No. No.
Rick: Did you? Who did?
Paul: I mean, Nilakanta meditation is a modern term that I gave to the style of meditation practice that I’m teaching in order, just like you have many different yoga groups that take on different names and so on, Nilakanta is one of the names of Shiva, the blue throat of Shiva stained by the poison that he swallows at the time of the churning of the ocean of milk, you know, and so on. And it’s just, it was when I first started to teach, the initial students I came into contact with, and this was back in 2006 when I began to leave the university setting, kept asking me, you know, “What do you call this?” And I was like, “We don’t call it anything.” We just, I was a little naive perhaps, and so then finally I just, yeah.
Rick: Yeah. Okay. So, you kind of formulated or devised Nilakanta meditation based upon all of your decades of experience and scholarship and understanding. Is that correct to say?
Paul: I mean, it’s a complicated story. I always say that, you know, in a certain sense it’s like genetics. It’s like the father and the mother and then they have a child and then, you know, people come up to that child and say, “Oh, you’re just like your parents.” Well, the child doesn’t like that, so you know.
Rick: Yeah, but obviously the child was influenced by the parents.
Rick: Yeah, it might look like them or something. And so, in addition to Maharishi, you were with Gurumayi. Were you with Muktananda also?
Paul: No, I never met him. I never met him, no.
Rick: Okay. So, those two, you know, Maharishi and Gurumayi had kind of a formative influence on what you’re teaching now?
Paul: Well, yes. I mean, a deep and powerful one, but also, I started reading Abhinavagupta’s texts, gosh, you know, 1982 or something in Sanskrit. So I spent 30 years investigating these extraordinary formulations with regard to practice and trying to discover kind of the root principles in a certain sense that upheld the kind of spiritual practice and the kind of teachings that were being brought forward. And then, as I said, because Abhinavagupta’s teachings were so influential in so many different ways, even people, you know, sort of losing track historically of the fact that his teachings had had such an extraordinary impact, that then kind of discovering the traces and the traceries of this tradition, which had been sort of lost in a certain sense. I mean, it survived, obviously, in terms of the Brahmin families of Kashmir and the texts and the study of the texts and so on, but in terms of modern or even later teachers, there is a sort of interruption that happens there in a hiatus. Yeah.
Rick: Does Nilakantha meditation involve the use of a mantra?
Paul: Yeah. So, we use a series of mantras, and I would say that one of the primary things that Abhinavagupta articulated in his text and is kind of the singular contribution, theoretically speaking, of this Shaiva-Shastra tradition was a much more complex and nuanced understanding of mantra and of the use of mantra and of the varieties of mantras and, you know, sort of the understanding of the different kinds of effects that different kinds of mantras have. I mean, you know, one of the names in scholarship for the sort of the sequence of the Shaiva tradition is called the mantra marga, the path of mantra. And the theory of understanding language and the potency of mantra that is articulated in the Shaiva Shastra text, particularly by Abhinavagupta, but based on the work of other scholars, including his most famous disciple Ksemaraja, is called Matrika Shakti, the potency of the words as matrices of consciousness and so on. So, it’s, I mean, it’s an extraordinarily fascinating theory that, in a certain sense, is kind of like, you know, almost like the discovery of Newtonian physics or even the evolving of physics in terms of sound and in terms of the impact and relationship between sound and consciousness and very, very precise and very nuanced distinctions and so on in that regard. And I think that this is something I’ve been very, very fascinated with. It’s been a central piece of what I’ve been working on is this Matrika Shakti understanding.
Rick: Let’s go into that a little bit more because a lot of times people hear the word mantra and they have, it’s even sort of a generic term almost, the way guru is a generic term these days. And you know, if it’s used in a spiritual context, which it isn’t always, sometimes you hear the word on the news related to something or other, so-and-so’s mantra. But if it’s used in a spiritual context, it’s often presented as just a meaningless sound. And some people might think, “Well, why the heck should I sit there and think a meaningless sound? What’s that going to do for me?” Or maybe if it’s just a meaningless sound, why don’t I just take “gazork” or something and sit there and think that, you know? Why do I have to get formal instruction? Or I can look on the internet and actually, maybe the mantra is, maybe it is important, which one you get. Okay, I do a little Google search and there I see a list of mantras that are used in TM or some other thing. I’ll just, I like this one. I think I’ll take that one and I’ll start using that. What’s the flaw in that thinking?
Paul: Where do I start? I think that, yes, mantra is one of the sort of words that has been, you know, has entered our English language. It means something like a slogan, you know, either a political slogan or whatever, and that obviously is not the original meaning. It’s, you know, English has a way of grabbing words from every possible language and then changing their meaning. And mantra is certainly one of those words that has had its meaning altered significantly. I think that one of the things that is central in the teachings of the Shaiva-Shakta Masters is the notion of initiation. So they spend, you know, Abhinavagupta spends a tremendous portion, I mean 20 or 30 chapters of his Tantra Loka on the different varieties of deeksha, of initiation, and really digging deep into the notion of initiation as understanding that there is a procedure for the bestowing of an esoteric practice from a teacher to a student that has certain mechanical requirements that guarantee the efficacy of the practice as it’s going to be received. In other words, none of us want to sit around and do practices that are not going to lead anywhere or they’re not going to have results, they’re not going to be able to, you know, take us anywhere in a certain sense or transform our experience in the ways that we seek to have that happen. And so there is this very precise and very detailed examination of this idea of how it is that in fact there is the appropriate communication, whether it’s a practice that has mantra or any practice of an esoteric sort in that sense that is communicated potently, effectively, and that will then yield the desired results as opposed to just someone, you know, picking it up. One of the terms that comes up, it’s actually a very ancient term, is this understanding of virya. So the Shaiva masters speak about mantra virya. Virya means potency, and there is this idea of
Rick: Probably related to the word virility.
Paul: Yes, it is. Sanskrit definitely has links to Latin and so on, which then gives us that word in English as well. And so, yes, virya, the strength or potency, the capacity of the mantra to yield the result, and the fundamental understanding that the Shaiva masters bring forward is, they say, “Well, you know, the highest mantra is the mantra Aham, ‘I am.’” It’s not a mantra that one repeats inside oneself, but it is a formulation in a certain sense of the presence, the powerful presence of consciousness itself somehow inherently held in a vessel or container of syllables. So we have to, you know, one of the things that they begin to differentiate about is the difference between what are called the varnas, or the Sanskrit phonemes, and the mantra itself. Just the phonemes do not constitute a mantra. The mantra must be like a vessel. It has to be like a chalice in a certain sense. The chalice can be full or it can be empty. And the difference is, does the mantra have consciousness in it or not in that sense? Now someone can say, “well, doesn’t everything have consciousness?” Yes, that’s a different consideration, but the activation in a certain sense, and so the study of what it is that must transpire inside someone such that then the mantra is filled or activated in a certain kind of way, when it is received, it then yields the desired result versus then a mantra that what you’re looking at when you’re looking at whether it’s a book or the internet or whatever, are the phonemes of it. And the phonemes then do not have that component. And this is, you know, this is an essential part of this idea or differentiation with regard to what the tradition talks about where they talk about sthula or the surface of life, sukshma or the subtle dimensions, atisukshma or the extraordinarily subtle dimensions, and then the transcendental domain of reality. And saying if your focus or your attention is restricted only to the sthula and all that you’re gauging or looking at or studying is the sthula superficial, then you miss out on fundamental intrinsic and deeply necessary components of the activation. It’s kind of like in physics when we’re not aware of atomic or subatomic particles, etc. and so on. We’re just looking at sort of the surface of life, and we miss out on the intrinsic or inherent structure and mechanism and the fundamental. You know, the Sanskrit masters use this word, kshobha, the throb or the aliveness, the Shiva masters, I mean, the throb or the aliveness, the activated throb of consciousness in something and that, that is necessary in a certain sense, but that’s not all that’s necessary. There are other pieces and components to that. But just coming back to something you said before, there’s a differentiation in the study of mantra then, that the Shiva masters and certainly Abhinavagupta spends a tremendous amount of time in both of his most major works that have come down to us examining this theory of mantra Shakti. It says there are certain categories of mantras, some of which then in Sanskrit the term is asanketika, they have no ordinary dictionary meaning. Now not all mantras are like that. There are many mantras that have perfectly understandable and comprehensible dictionary meaning. So it’s a sub-subcategory in a certain sense, what are called the hridaya bija mantras. You have the mantra and then bija mantras and then hridaya bija mantras, which are understood to be asanketika, having no ordinary significance or dictionary meaning whatsoever. But yet constituting a particular vibratory frequency that is something that is going to act, not just on the sthula or surface dimension of our being, but is also going to vibrationally resonate with the sukshma and the ati-sukshma levels inside us and yield sort of transformative effects of various sorts in that regard. And so therefore that’s why, you know, coming back to your idea of the meaningless sound, etc., and then also the idea of surface preference. When someone says, “Well, you know, I like that particular mantra because it goes with my decor in my living room,” or whatever.
Rick: [Laughter] Reminds me of my mother or something.
Paul: Well, yeah. So these are surface sorts of things that are really irrelevant in a certain sense because all you’re looking at there is the, the sort of the surface resonance of the syllables rather than really understanding what is it that is supposed to be carried or conveyed or communicated or made available at the more subtle levels of, you know. So anyway, that’s a piece of it, yeah.
Rick: So, you said hridaya bija. Now hridaya means heart, doesn’t it? And bija means seed.
Paul: That’s right. So the heart-seed mantras as a sub-subcategory of mantras that have this idea of asanketika having no ordinary signification or ordinary meaning. And then, you know, it isn’t just that they don’t have meaning, they have other sort of characteristics as well. But in his Tantra Loka, Abhinavagupta talks about this and he says because of that, they don’t catch or shape idea forms or thought forms or concept forms in the mind, what are called vikalpas. So they don’t create vikalpa in the mind, and then he also says they are able to animate a higher vibratory frequency. In Sanskrit, the verb forms spandayanti. They cause consciousness to vibrate at higher and higher frequencies in a certain sense, and because of that, then certain things begin to happen, and so on. So I mean, there’s more to that as well. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah, just to comment on the potency or the virya aspect of it, I know when you and I were TM teachers, we used to do a ceremony, and you still do, I’m sure, when you teach people.
Paul: Yeah, right.
Rick: And you know, if I were to do like, in fact, up at TAF, the school where we met, there was one weekend where I taught about nearly 50 kids in one weekend, and boy, I was high as a kite. You know, the ceremony had a very profound, the whole process of initiating people had a very profound influence. And I would often find that if I had some particularly profound experience while I was doing it, the person I was teaching would report the same experience. Like I remember one lady, this was, I was teaching in my sister’s bedroom in my father’s home, my awareness just sort of became vast while I was doing the whole ceremony, and I sat down and I taught her, and she said, “Oh, my awareness just became vast!” So there’s definitely some kind of resonance or trainment or some such thing that took Place. And if I was not coherent or scattered, the people wouldn’t get as good a result.
Paul: Yeah, I mean, these are all aspects of things that Abhinavupta goes into detail in his text with regard to who it is that’s actually doing the teaching. The tradition basically says now that the human teacher in a sense animates or activates or rises to the highest possible level inside themselves. And that from a highest sort of esoteric perspective, it is that absolute consciousness, whether we call it Shiva or Shakti or Shiva-Shakti or whatever name you want to give to it, that is actually functioning through the medium in a certain sense of the person. And then, therefore, there is this process of a certain kind of preparation or a certain kind of prior necessary sort of procedure that is necessary for the teacher to be able to communicate. And then, of course, that also has, there are different levels with regard to that, depending on what level of realization or attainment the teacher has reached, whether or not that prior or external preparation or external ritual is necessary or is it just being enacted just because it’s the tradition that it’s enacted, but it’s not really instrumentally necessary in that way.
Rick: Yeah, it seems to be instrumentally necessary. And what you were saying using those different Sanskrit words, sthula and so on, so the whole idea I think you were presenting is that the purpose of a mantra, and I’ll just say this briefly and you can elaborate, is it’s actually like a vehicle which allows the mind to settle down or progress to subtler and subtler levels of experience and ultimately to transcend its own activity and arrive at pure consciousness or state of samadhi. Right?
Paul: Right, yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, what Abhinavagupta talks about. He uses vocabulary from the Shakta tradition where he differentiates, not to get too deep into the weeds of the Sanskrit, but he differentiates between different currents of consciousness. So you have a current of consciousness that’s called the vama current, which is, you know, extroversive. Consciousness radiates out from some central point of the self in a certain sense that is ordinarily beyond everyone’s experience. There is this outward radiating like the rays of the sun in the sky. And then you have the opposite current called the jyestha current, which is an introversive current of return. So one of the ways to understand the technicalities of the appropriate use of mantra, particularly in the context of meditation, because of course mantra is used also in japa, it’s used in bhavan, many, many different other practices that can use mantra, and then there are practices as well, that do not use mantra and that’s a whole separate piece of practice that we also engage with. But this idea that says, “When a particular form of vibration is animated within the awareness field of the individual, it allows that individual to become aware of this introversive, naturally flowing current of consciousness.” That then, you know, it’s almost like a little boat placed on a stream, the boat just flows, carried by the current in that way. So the mantra is instrumental in a certain sense in this reversion in Sanskrit, parivritya, this turning of attention from moving in the outward direction to becoming aware of deeper levels of the pulsations of consciousness within. And then that is what the jesha current is actually, which is always operative. It’s just that we are ordinarily. Our attention or awareness or waking consciousness is flowing in the vama current, this extroversive current where consciousness moves out. And it’s, you know, I suppose, a corollary or a consequence of that when someone attempts to practice introversive meditation by attempting to go against the vama current. The vama current will always win in that sense. It’s that you can’t force attention. Or in a certain sense, what you’re trying to do is use the vama current to go against the vama current, use that extroversive waking consciousness to somehow counteract itself. I mean, I use these really silly analogies in my teaching, I talk about, you know, going up the down escalator in a certain sense. And it’s like, well, you’re going against the flow in that sense, you have to find where is the up escalator in a certain sense. I mean, these directionalities are arbitrary, you know, but we’re talking about the introversive or essential or subtilizing current that effortlessly yields this introversive movement in attention. And one of the things that I’ve spent many, many years seeking out the sources, in a certain sense, of a lot of this terminology, this term ayatna or ayatnata, which is a term that Abhinavagupta uses, means effortlessness. And he highlights this idea of effortless practice as opposed to practice that is effortful. He differentiates two different domains. He doesn’t reject effortful practice. He just says there’s two different categories of practice, one which we would call sort of natural and effortless and non-strategic, and the other kinds of practice being effortful and having a certain strategic, you know, investment of the body-mind of will or of attention or a certain kind of forcing to happen, and that that’s, these are differentiated in the tradition. He calls it akritrama versus kritrama, the spontaneous, natural, or effortless dimensions of practice that have a certain kind of ease with regard to them, as opposed to the practices that involve a tremendous amount of effort in terms of counteracting or opposing certain movements. And we know that oppositional practice is part of, in the Yoga Sutra, it’s all idea of pratipaksha, going against whatever it is that’s happening inside you in order to negate it or to cause it to cease, is a legitimate arena of practice. It’s just, these are sort of, I suppose they are categorized in terms of interior most and then practice that happens at a more surface level of life with regard to the senses.
Rick: So, one thing you just said in all of that is that, or maybe you didn’t quite say, but that these subtler levels of the mind, this will sound familiar, are more charming. And why would you need to make an effort to have the mind move in the direction of something that’s more charming? You know, you put some good food at the door and the dog is there. So if the mind can begin to move in that inner direction and if it begins to encounter greater happiness or greater charm, greater fulfillment, then it will be very effortless for it to continue to do that. So therefore, no need for effort.
Paul: Right, and I think that the way that the Shaiva Shakta Masters talk about that has to do with shakti, in other words, that there is an increase of the potency of consciousness. And again, the analogy of the star in the sky, the sun, where the intensity of heat, so to speak, increases as you approach the source, so too as you’re approaching the state of the transcendental self, the intensity of irradiating, outwardly moving Shakti is increasing. And therefore, that increase has the different components of the Shakti, including, as you just mentioned, the ananda value. The increase of the ananda value, which, you know, that has to be linked in terms of the theory, then to another understanding, which has to do with the nature of the mind. And this is where, again, Abhinavagupta uses this term svabhava, which is a fairly common philosophical word in Sanskrit. It means the inherent nature of something. It says, you know, just like the inherent nature of fire is its heat, the inherent nature of the flower is its perfume, the inherent nature of the mind is that the mind will always move towards something more. This is called the sphutata value, moving toward the increase of the light, or the increase of the bliss, or the increase of the perceived inner sense of wholeness, of fulfillment in a certain sense that is being registered within as the attention flows on the jyestha current. And you know, yeah, so basically, I mean, yeah, there’s these different elements that come together too, yeah.
Rick: So, if people might ask, “Well, if this is so natural and if the inner value is so charming, why don’t we just automatically slip into that on a regular basis, the way we slip into sleep at night? Sleep is enjoyable.” You know, why do we need to learn something? Why doesn’t it just happen as part of our normal human functioning? And I guess you explained it in terms of that other current that starts with a V. The vamakarana.
Paul: So, that’s just, that vamakarana is so habitual, I guess, or so predominant that the other one is overshadowed by it. Yes, I mean, the vamakarana is explicit, it’s obvious, it’s predominant in waking consciousness, and it continuously causes awareness or attention to flow out, thereby creating our state of life. In other words, it flows through the mind, it flows through the felt sense of individuality, ahamkara, it flows through the senses, it flows through memory, etc., and it animates the whole field of our body-mind, in a certain sense. And there’s also a habituation over a long period of time in life to being in the body-mind awareness, and that over many lifetimes, says Abhinavagupta, creates a particular habit pattern of that being identified as the normal state, or the ordinary state, or the predominant state of life. And so, therefore, there has to be some form of instruction, in a certain sense, that allows an individual to begin to discover that there is something else. And the process of temporarily relinquishing the inhabiting in the body-mind is something that is learned over time, or experienced over time, or also can be alarming in a certain sense. This is part of, you know, when people talk about having near-death experiences, or very powerful experiences in which they feel themselves departing very rapidly from their ordinary consciousness. You know, we had, well, there’s a whole arena of talk about that. This is something also that is, you know, talked about in the Shaiva text with regard to the very rapid movement of attention in that introversive current, temporarily obliterating the felt sense of individuality, or the felt sense of identification with the body-mind, or of the activity of the senses, etc. and so on. So there’s, you know, but yeah.
Paul: And people, by the way, just, you know, the other aspect of it is, people do slip into these states, but often haphazardly, and also not able to, in ways that are not repeatable. So what we want is the repeatable accessibility of entering into that gesture current and the movement of attention across the vibratory spectrum inside to higher and higher levels of vibration that then allows the yielding or the merging of separative attention into the space of, you know, what in the classical you would call the purusha, the pure contentless consciousness or the so-called turiya, or fourth state of consciousness. So that process itself is something that is blocked by the vama current, but then the tradition brings up, the Shaiva tradition brings up a whole different kind of terminology, which is the whole understanding of the malas. And so the malas are the fundamental root contraction of individuality that sustains our individuality. In other words, if it is the case that what we are as individual beings is sort of a manifestation or an expression of this unbounded vastness of absolute consciousness, why doesn’t this – the very question that you’re asking is asked by the tradition – why isn’t it the case that the person then just reverts back to, you know, in the analogy of the wave in the ocean, why doesn’t the wave of our individuality just automatically, continuously melt back into the oceanic totality of life? And the Shaiva tradition then comes up with this terminology of the malas. It says it’s a fundamental root contraction, the so-called anava mala, that maintains the separateness of the individuality. Now that has a good side because then we get to live our life. But it also has a bad side, which is that, that very process of contraction of the mala is concealing. We have this whole idea of revealing and concealing in the activities that are attributed to Shiva, so-called panchakritis, include this idea of revelation and concealment. So you have this idea that, you know, this ultimacy of absoluteness has concealed itself from itself on purpose, willingly, and out of its own freedom. And that therefore our ordinary state of individuality and of our life experience, not just in any one lifetime but across multiple lifetimes, is maintained in its separateness and in its sort of finiteness by the operation of the anava mala that continues to assert the sort of intention or the Iccha Shakti- the will of reality with regard to our individuality that that be maintained. And that also operates against, then, the capacity of the individual to easily begin to sort of slide back, you know, in different moments. Now, I mean, there’s a lot to talk about all of this, but yeah. Yeah, anyway.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good things in there. One point you made is that it’s not a bad thing that we have some, you know, stability to the individuality. A lot of people, a number of teachers around these days, in fact, a guy that I interviewed last week, emphasized heavily on there is no person. There never was a person, there is no free will, you know, it’s just sort of a delusion that you think yourself to be an individual. And I kept hitting back with, “yeah, of course you’re a person, you’re just not only a person.” But it’s hard to debate that with somebody a lot of times because they emphasize that the absolute value to the exclusion of relative values. And I just kept trying to say it’s much more multi-dimensional than that, and all these things can co-exist and must co-exist simultaneously for life to be lived. Yeah, so there’s that.
Paul: I mean, I think, just to comment on that for a moment, if you will. I don’t know who you were talking to, and I’m of course never addressing myself to any other individual, but in terms of the tradition, you have these two very different streams of kind of, I suppose one could call them spiritual ideology or philosophy with regard to the absoluteness. And, you know, the differentiation between the so-called renunciatory stream, in which, one of the highlights or hallmarks of the renunciatory stream is exactly that sort of assertion of negation with regard to any sort of appearance. So that any sort of appearance is in fact “mayic,” it is illusory in its character, has never happened. And we’re in some kind of a weird matrix in the sort of movie sense of that. And we’re deluded by it all, but in fact, nothing has ever happened, nothing has ever taken place, etc., and so on, and that there is no such thing as individuality. And that is a fundamental assertion of a renunciatory stream, which in fact, both in terms of Advaita Vedanta and in terms of various forms of medieval Buddhism, really wins the day, historically speaking and ideologically and philosophically speaking, to the exclusion. I mean, one of the things that I always want to talk about with regard to the Shaiva Shakta tradition, whether you call it Tantric or the mantra marga, the path of mantra, is that they have a different assertion. They’re saying all of this is the activity of the great potency of consciousness, the Manasakshi’s activity, and it is relatively real. It is just, you know, to echo your point, it’s not absolutely real, but there are these appearances. Now, yes, in the journey of consciousness across stages of evolutionary expansion, that is to say in terms of enlightenment and so on, the growth of consciousness, eventually there is the arriving at the oceanic, all-embracing totality within which everything that has appeared is now recognized to have been a temporary sort of appearance, in the sense of the Sanskrit term is “abhasa,” like a movie in a certain sense. It’s just projected on the screen of the absolute. The absolute itself projects on its own screen the reality of everything that arises, and it is then sustained, and then it eventually dissolves as well, and so on. But there’s not this assertion of its illusory character, even at the relative level. There is assertion that says, “No, it’s relatively real. We can’t deny it at that level.” And it is then, eventually, not so much transcended, the technical term that gets used is “sublated.” In other words, just like when you go from a dream to waking, the dream is sublated by waking consciousness. So too, your waking consciousness will eventually be sublated by some higher state of realization or attainment that isn’t just temporary, but is a stabilized condition that the individual begins to live in, and so on. And then, you know, the speech or the description of reality that is then uttered by someone who is living in such a state of consciousness, then will not correspond and will not be the same as the description. I mean, these are obviously perspectival descriptions of reality that come from – it depends what you see depends on where you’re standing or where you’re seated and so you get these different – but the sad part, in a certain sense, historically, is that the so-called Shaiva-Shakta tradition, which was amenable and acceptable to householders, in other words, the whole idea was that it was non-renunciatory in character. It was, you know, you could practice to the highest levels of practice and receive the highest levels of initiation, aspire to the highest levels of realization within your householder life and your embodied life and your life in the world, as it were. And this is one of the points that I often come up against, where people fundamentally still in our marketplace. I mean, of course, there are many, many voices out there speaking from many perspectives. But there’s still an understanding of so-called spirituality as being inherently renunciatory in its character. And I think that, that’s one of the great sort of “mind shifts” that the Shaiva-Shakta tradition brings us. It says, no, it is not necessarily renunciatory to aspire to the growth and evolution and the blossoming of consciousness within an individual. It does not require – in fact, it’s the opposite. There’s a whole different perspective with regard to the impact of consciousness and of deep practice on the individual that is not necessarily renunciatory. So that, you know, when you have a statement such as the one that, it seems to me, I would say that somewhere in the background of statements like that is always a sort of Vedantic, non-dual Vedantic outlook that seeks to deny or to negate or in a certain sense just preclude anything about, you know, the appearing reality versus a reality that says these are things that are relatively real. They are the operation of the Mahashakti. And yes, then, in fact, one of the sort of great sort of adventures of life is to seek out what are the different forms of the operation of this extraordinary potency of consciousness. And how does she operate at different levels of reality? And this is exactly what these tantric texts are bringing forward – the sort of hierarchical and sequential operation of different levels of consciousness potency that then create this grandiose and, you know, completely astonishing structure that is far bigger, as we know, than just our physical universe. So…
Rick: Yeah. I was on the monastic program in the TM movement for many years. And you know, there is this sort of subtle attitude or something, if you orient yourself that way, that the creation itself is some kind of mistake and that we should get, the whole goal is to get out of it as soon as possible. Which is not very complimentary to God, I would say. And you know, because when you think about it, when you look at it, there’s this incredible, beautiful display of divine intelligence all about us in every little grain of sand. And that just doesn’t seem like a mistake. So, if you think of the universe as, you know, one big evolution machine and that there’s a purpose to all, this evolution, that there’s a value added kind of to not just having absolute all by itself, and that it’s not like something has been lost and we want to sort of get back again as quickly as possible, then it changes, in a very, very subtle way. It changes your attitude and your feeling level. In fact, the whole, you know, kind of 20, actually maybe more like 40 years ago, 35 years ago, I would have thought of the Kashmir Shaivism perspective as kind of a compromise or a cop out or that’s just for householders and they can’t really go for the highest. But now I see it as, personally, and maybe it’s because I’m married, but I think it’s more than that. It’s really a more rich and inclusive and profound orientation. You want to riff on that a little bit?
Paul: Sure, I mean, this is one of the things that I spend a lot of time talking about. I think that what, you know, in the richness and the sort of the multifariousness of reality, the understanding that there are at least, there’s more than one non-dual path. In other words, the assumption with regard to so-called non-duality that’s out there is that it is fundamentally renunciatory in its character. But that what you have in the medieval period, at the same time that you have a Shankara, for example, in the Advaita Vedanta, you have an Abhinavagupta in this Kashmir Shaivite tradition, which is not renunciatory in its character. He was actually not a swami in that sense. He did not take sannyasa, as far as we know, although apparently he was a bachelor all of his life, etc. So it didn’t really have to do so much with external married status or whatever but more in terms of ideology. But you have this, one of the analogies that I use, and you know, is this ocean and wave – in Sanskrit you have this idea of nyaya. These are illustrative principles that help us to understand things. So the nyaya of the ocean and the wave says, well, one way to look at spirituality is to say that the whole purpose of the spiritual journey is to negate or to subside the wave back into the ocean, is to annihilate, to obliterate, to completely eradicate and uproot all traces of separateness, of individuality, of finiteness, of manifestation or expression. And that, in fact, is at the very core of what could be called a renunciatory path. And all renunciatory ideology, as well as renunciatory practice, as well as renunciatory mantras are then gauged to accomplish that goal of the extraction of whatever it is that’s sustaining that separate activity of the wave and leaving behind this idea of the ocean. And as I said just a while ago, for many people that’s the only thing, that’s the only way to look at it. However, the opposite way to look at it is to say that the forms of practice in which the practice has as a goal- the drawing of the oceanic character of the absolute consciousness into the wave and that then the wave begins to rise and rise and rise and rise, And that eventually there could occur a circumstance, and this is what, you know, the Shaiva masters meant by Jivanmukti, in which the entire ocean has actually risen paradoxically into the expression of the wave. And then at that moment you have embodied enlightenment in that sense. You have this notion of the, you know, the via positiva, an affirmative way, a way of embodiment rather than a via negativa of negation or of obliteration and so on. And this has, it has a thousand different consequences. But I think, you know, going back to the topic of mantra, one of the things that, that I’ve investigated and I found traces of it. You know, I mean, we heard it from Maharishi, but I’ve investigated in the Shaiva texts as well, this idea of different mantras for householders than mantras for renunciates because there’s a fundamentally different directionality. The approach of the renunciate is an approach of self-undoing in a certain sense, of relinquishment, of separateness, of the abandonment of separate will or separate intention or separate agendas. There’s really a negation of any form of creativity, any form of engagement of any sort whatsoever just to, as it were, depart off into the vastness, love absoluteness. You know, the Mahaprasthana, the great going forth, and off you go into that absolute, and you leave behind this illusory domain, etc. and so on. And in fact, you know, obviously you as a separate individual can’t do anything. You have to abandon yourself in that sense. You get all this talk about ego death and the killing of the ego and all of that is part of the ideology of the renunciatory tradition. Whereas, you know, in the Shaiva tradition, you have a different understanding. It says, how do you draw into life? How do you embody? How do you hold? And then also, how do you express? How do you serve as a vehicle for increasing degrees of divine creativity to flow through individuals and to make, you know, creative contributions to life and to existence through the increase of that upsurge? You know, the Shiva Sutra talks about “Udhyamo Bhairava,” the upsurge of the absolute into the relativity of life, and then the expression, the modulating out of that creativity. And that, that requires a very different ideology, a very different set of practices, and a very different set of mantras that in fact then bring about such a result and are not involved in the ultimate relinquishment. Now yes, ultimately, you know, we all have to leave this physical body. And so there is that differentiation, you know, in terms of yes, eventually we will depart as it were. And it’s a very fascinating thing to talk about. What are the sort of post-mortem destinies that these different traditions, you know, imagine or envision for different beings, etc. and so on? But nevertheless, yeah. Yeah.
Rick: A couple of things on that, and one is just to use the wave analogy a little bit more. You know, it seems like the recluse thing is, “Alright, I’m this insignificant little wave and it would be best if I ceased to exist and just become an ocean without waves, or just the ocean regardless of who else thinks they’re a wave.” Whereas the perspective you’re presenting is, “Hey, you know, it’s not so bad being a wave. How about if I am able to draw upon the full depth of the ocean and rise to become an even more powerful wave. And yet, not be divorced from the ocean, just remain connected because that’s the only way I can be a more powerful wave is if I embody my ocean-hood.” And you know, the practical translation of that is, you needn’t think in terms of like living just a simple, non-productive life. You can actually become more productive, more successful, more engaged with the world, but not lost in it because you have retained or rediscovered your ocean-hood, your unboundedness.
Paul: Yeah, and I think that, I mean, I think that another element or component of the understanding of the sort of Tantric sadhana is Upanishad’s teaching of what he called the Kaula Samsara, the refinement of consciousness. And so, basically, it isn’t just that you’re just getting a whole bunch of power in a certain sense or a whole bunch of oceanic kind of absoluteness and staying the same. It’s that the
Rick: Yeah, it’s not like you become a powerful jerk, you know, who’s got all this ocean voltage helping you to screw people.
Paul: Well said. You summarize it beautifully, Rick. Right to the point. That’s exactly, I was trying to be delicate about the matter.
Rick: Yeah, you’re too refined. But this thing you said about post-mortem intrigues me because I’ve interviewed a number of people who actually had encounters with Ramana Maharshi before they even knew that there ever had been such a person. You know, like there’s this woman named Pamela Wilson who’s been on the show a couple times, and when she was a teenager, she said, “I just want to know truth.” She had this burning desire to know truth. “I’m just going to sit here on my bed until truth comes through that door.” But she couldn’t stay up all night, so she fell asleep. And all of a sudden, she woke up in the middle of the night and there was this little Indian guy sitting on her bed and she threw a pillow at him. And like some years later, she saw a book with Ramana Maharshi on it. And this has happened to at least half a dozen people I know of. So I wonder, you know, whether cosmic intelligence is just fabricating an image of Ramana Maharshi. Because later on, you know, the person will encounter that person and that image on a book and, you know, get interested in Advaita or if Ramana himself actually still exists in some functional form and is, like, some kind of ascended master or something. Any thoughts on that in terms of the whole post-mortem thing with enlightened beings?
Paul: I mean, I think we have to be
Rick: Conjectural a little bit.
Paul: Yes, and understand that, you know, we’re sort of taking guesses about things that are way beyond our ordinary experience in that way or whatever. And so that statements, I mean, casual statements that are made about this and so on can be, it’s much more complicated in a certain kind of way. But I think that there’s no question that there’s a sort of reverberating echo of the teachings and of the energies of great beings that can sort of, it’s like a wave that started. It’s sort of like a galaxy that exploded billions of years ago. The light is still streaming through the physical universe, and so when you get these extraordinary beings, the effect of their realization, of their attainment, is still streaming through time and space, whether it is their separate individuality or not, gets us into really complicated questions in a certain sense. And sort of trying to imagine some of these things that are really beyond a certain kind of imagination. But certainly, I mean, what you’ve just described is a standard story that is repeated in the case of many, many thousands of different teachers in practically every tradition, you know, this notion. And it’s something that even the Buddhists, I mean, in Buddhism, you have this idea that in early Buddhism, the Buddha is actually addressing himself to this and he says, “Look at, I’m about to go, and you better ask me all your questions now, because when I’m gone, I’m gone. There’s no contact to me.” There’s no Skype or Zoom or whatever to contact the Buddha in some subtle plane or whatever. And you know, this is the teaching of early Buddhism. It’s the term Tathagata, the thus-gone one, utterly disappeared, utterly unavailable, utterly transcendent, utterly, completely gone, gone, utterly gone beyond, as the famous sutra has it, and so on. Whereas, then later, Mahayana Buddhism is a little more cautious about that. They’re like, you know, “we’d really like to actually have some form of the Buddha sticking around that we might be able to communicate with and so on.” So they create the three bodies of the Buddha theory, and you get a lot of discussion around these things. But my feeling is that it’s difficult for us to categorize or judge or know what exactly is transpiring. But that there are energies of, I mean, this is another, one of the fundamental concepts of the tradition is this idea of shaktipata, sometimes loosely translated as “grace,” although the concept of grace has so many Christian overtones sometimes that that word is filled with connotations that are not so comfortable in a certain kind of way. But you have this idea of the irradiating movement of freedom that moves through the structures of bondage or of limitation. And so it’s this wave of freedom that is opening, that is expanding, that is releasing, that is illuminating, that is transforming our life in a certain kind of way. And then, you know, just as, to come back to the Shaiva terminology, just as the Yama Vimala has created the persistence of our individuality, now there’s a wave of freedom that begins to disassemble that force of contraction within us. And within that, then, individuals can have numerous and numberless kinds of experiences of various sorts that present themselves to the individual in terms sometimes of the content of their mind or the content of their samskaras from previous times. In other words, you said, well, in this case, the person didn’t know anything about Ramana Maharshi in this lifetime. But who knows what is there in the deeper mind.
Rick: She could have been with him last time around or something.
Paul: Potentially, or that was just a, yeah.
Rick: But then, you know, there’s a number of traditions that outline a whole scheme of different levels of evolution and human levels by no means the apex of it. There are many levels higher.
Paul: For sure.
Rick: And so, I don’t know, it’s speculative, but it’s kind of fun to play with a little bit every now and then.
Paul: It’s very fascinating, for sure.
Rick: I mean, the underlying sentiment here is just that, just as we feel in our own lives, you and I, and I’m sure your students, that this is a lifelong project of continuing refinement in evolution. You know, who’s to say that even if some high degree of enlightenment is gained, the process doesn’t continue on some level, maybe not the human level anymore.
Paul: No, that’s right. And I think that’s, that is congruent with what the Shaiva tradition speaks about in its Agamic and Tantric literature. In other words, you get this description of super-complex hierarchies of beings rising higher and higher and higher and higher, who then enact various kinds of specific kind, of higher level functionalities, so that where you have a person whose attention is only their own home. Now it expands to their city, it expands to their state, their country, their planet, you know.
Rick: Yeah, there might be beings whose jurisdiction is a galaxy or something.
Paul: Exactly, exactly. And so, that, you know, the idea that, I mean, we have these somewhat flattened perspectives of enlightenment as saying, “well, you never come back,” and so on. Or you know, moksha is liberation from any form of samsaric transmigration, and yes, on some level that is fundamentally the differentiation, but it may be quite a bit more complicated process with many more levels, interval levels that we’re not aware of. And then, you know, the other piece, which, I mean, I remember hearing Maharishi talk about this, which was the idea of cosmic ambassadors. And this is the whole notion of avatars, in a certain sense where beings come back, not for their own individual purposes. Just like an ambassador travels from one country to another, not because they’re taking tourism to that other country. Their purpose has to do with the whole country that they represent. So too, you have this idea of cosmic ambassadors who may return many times. I mean, this is, in a sense, in Buddhism you have the teachings of the Bodhisattva and so on. The commitment to continue to return to serve the suffering of human beings, and to serve the enlightenment of human beings, you know. And then the idea of a terminal or finite nirvana in the Buddhist sense is actually critiqued. I mean, I know these are very subtle ideologies in Buddhism that are looked at from 20 different philosophical perspectives and so on. You know, I’m not doing them justice right now, but nevertheless, that’s a piece of it in a certain sense. It’s a much more complicated story. And so within that, I think that, for me, I think that understanding the ways in which awakening is a natural process that may begin to transpire in the awareness of an individual for reasons that are inexplicable. In other words, that though we seek out rationales and explanations and various kinds of descriptions of, “Well, it happened because of this,” or “It happened because of that,” “I had a dream,” or “I saw a book,” or “I met a person,” or whatever it is, that these are surface explanations. But that in fact, the Shaiva masters are speaking about sort of a wave that begins at the deepest level of reality that then impacts the contracted state of the individual and begins to loosen that hold of individual contraction. And as a result of that, sets up sort of an impact of transformation, and also it sets up energies inside the individual that, you know, Abhinava says basically, “First you get grace, and then you seek out a master.” It’s the inverse. And people say, “Well, I’m looking for the grace of a master.” Actually, the grace has already moved deep inside. It has already opened something. It has already released something. It has already restructured or reformulated some notion. And this is, then, in his Tantra Loka. Abhinavagupta then speaks about different levels of the path or of the methodology of the path, the so-called upaya. And he says, “Well, it can happen in a mild way, it can happen in an intermediate way, it can happen in a very super intense way.” And he categorizes it in terms of three, then in terms of nine, then in terms of 27. He creates a kind of hierarchy of transformation. And then at each level, the intensity of the impact then determines the phenomena that will occur inside that individual in terms of, you know, their motivation, the depth of commitment, the depth of devotion, for example, or the depth of, you know, ekagdhata citta, one-pointedness of consciousness, or not in that way. So, it’s a mild, medium, and intense kind of idea that he formulates there. Yeah.
Rick: Yeah, okay. So many things I want to cover with you. I’ve gotten into debates every now and then with some teacher about the direct versus the progressive paths, and particularly teachers who are, you know, hitting on the direct path idea. I kind of lean on the progressive side. But I think maybe the issue can be resolved by saying that it can be both. Because if direct means that somehow you directly glom onto enlightenment and you’re done, I’ve never seen an example of that. But on the other hand, you can dip into samadhi from day one and that’s direct. But then thereafter it takes, you know, thousands and tens of thousands of dippings for further refinement to continue. So, I don’t know, do you have any comments on that?
Paul: Well, I mean, I think that’s just what I was talking about. This is a bit of a good, I mean, these debates are very old. In other words, there are modern debates about these things. We didn’t discover most of these ideas. They’ve been floating around in the ether for a very long time. And what Abhinavagupta talks about when he talks about upaya in his Tantra Loka and this is the subject matter of the first five chapters is he takes up this very important theme and he says, “Look, if the impact of shaktipata, of this awakening descent of grace, is sufficiently powerful, the individual is almost instantaneously liberated and also departs from their physical body, or very soon thereafter departs from their physical body.” So that the most intense forms of shaktipata involve no, it’s called the anupaya, the non-method method. There’s no practice, there’s no doing, there’s no attaining, there’s no mantra, Tantra, Yantra, mandala. There’s nothing in that sense in terms of, you know, there is just sheer, the sheer impact of liberative grace that operates to such an extraordinary level of impact that it almost instantaneously releases the individual. Or it releases that individual without the individual having to engage with any form of practice. And here comes the difficulty, which Abhinavagupta himself also identifies. When such an individual is liberated purely by grace without any form of practice, then their idea of liberation and their narrative with regard to the path is going to reflect that notion that, “Well, I just opened my eyes and I saw reality. What’s the matter with you that you can’t do the same thing?” And this is something, you know, we’ve seen this in modern teachers as well, but this is something Abhinavagupta himself talks about it. This is the second anuka, the second chapter of his Tantra. He says, “Look, even if you are in this club, so to speak, of the, it’s not the highest level, but it’s one notch down from the highest level of shaktipata, you have to have compassion for the fact that not everybody’s destiny is going to be that they don’t have to engage with practice in that way. They don’t have to engage with effort or, you know, different levels of practice. You have practice at the level of intention, knowledge, and action.” So, it’s like jnana and kriya, different levels of practice that are there, and so on. And the anupaya, so-called the method, the non-method method in which there is nothing to be done, there is nothing to be engaged with in that way. And that fundamentally, and this is, I mean, I remember Maharishi saying this, basically. He said, “They make terrible teachers.” Because, I mean, not, you know, addressing anybody in particular. But because he said, “They don’t have any idea of the path. They have only experienced liberation, and therefore, while they may assume that what they accomplished or that happened or transpired for them is something that is universally going to occur as a phenomenon, actually, that’s not the case. It’s an extraordinarily rare circumstance, and therefore, you know, it is not capable of being replicated in the case of people, you know.” And this is, you know, I mean, so there’s, anyway.
Rick: In modern parlance, he was born on third base, and he thinks he hit a triple. But also, you know, Maharishi used the analogy of a man sitting on the top of a mountain. Maybe he forgot how he climbed up there or something, and he’s shouting out a description of the view. “Oh, it’s so marvelous, and I can see other mountains, and oh, it’s so beautiful.” And there’s all these people trying to climb up, and his shoutings are of no use to them whatsoever, because he’s describing his perspective, but he’s not giving anything about how to come up the trail. You know, “Look out for this glacier or this boulder,” or whatever.
Paul: Exactly, yeah. I mean, that’s a good analogy. I use something similar to that where I talk about people say, “If you could get up to, you know, if you look at a mountain and you say, “Okay, you know, a thousand feet up at the mountain, there’s a ledge. If you could just get yourself up to that ledge, then everything would be hunky-dory.” But the question is, “How do you get up to that ledge?” You know, and this whole idea of leap, how do you leap up to that ledge of liberation or that ledge of freedom? And that’s where, then, the Shaiva tradition wants to articulate a complex structure of upaya that then has increasing degrees of practices that address themselves to individuals who may have received lesser levels of the impact of liberation and so on, and who therefore require additional kinds of, I don’t want to say remedial, but certainly of practices that engage the energies of transformation and so on, as we’re talking about them. And so, you know, yeah.
Rick: Yeah, since we’re talking about levels and all that, you know, waking, dreaming, sleeping, the first three states of consciousness. Turiya means fourth. It’s a fourth state of consciousness which is transcending and all that, you know, to samadhi. But would there also be fifth, sixth, seventh states of consciousness which are not only subjectively different, but neuro-physiologically different from the first four? And so, how does Kashmir Shaivism sketch those out?
Paul: Yeah, I mean it’s a fantastically interesting topic for sure. You have the turiya state as the fourth state of consciousness, and then you have Turiyatita beyond the fourth state of consciousness, and this gets into complexities with regard even to meditation practice.
Rick: So, can turiya be abiding, or is it only by definition momentary? And is Turiyatita the abiding one?
Paul: Yes, so, well, like any state of consciousness, waking is temporary. It gives way to sleep or to dreaming. And the turiya state also can be something that is momentary. But then there is the increasing persistence of that state, not the experience of the turiya state but of the stabilized wholeness of consciousness that begins to be able to coexist with increasing degrees of activity in the awareness field in that way. And the rising in that sense of the Tariyatita state to what the Shaivite tradition calls the Atma-Vyapti, so what we in the old days called CC.
Rick: Cosmic Consciousness.
Paul: Yes, exactly. Thank you, sorry.
Rick: CC is in your…
Paul: Old acronyms, right. So the idea being that the cultivation of the prakritic body-mind, what you ordinarily take yourself to be as an individual, is such that it begins to permit the persistence of a level of wholeness, a level of totality, a level of absoluteness, so to speak, to coexist with the activity of the prakritic body-mind until you reach a level where that wholeness can tolerate every kind of activity of the body-mind and not disappear. So you have this notion of the turiya state in deep meditation as an introversive state. Only that pops, as it were, the very second there’s any form of separate activity that arises in the body-mind. And this is something that the Shaivite tradition speaks about. Basically at a certain moment, what’s called the pramatra, pramana, prameya, the knower, the means of knowledge, and the known object. This is part of the so-called Trika or Triadic school, that ordinary waking consciousness is tripartite in its structure. There is a knower, there is a means of knowledge, there’s a known object, and that structure unfurls out of the non-triadic structure of the so-called fourth. That’s why it’s chaturya or turiya. These are all equivalent names for that fourth state of consciousness. This is all, I mean, this understanding, by the way, is the precise subject matter of the first eight sutras of the Shiva Sutras of the Shaivite tradition. In other words, and there are other traditions that speak about states of consciousness. But the Shiva Sutras take up this understanding of the fact that you have these three states of consciousness. Then you have a fourth state of consciousness. And then there is this notion of rising beyond the turiya state. So what is that cultivation that leads to the rising beyond the turiya state? And then when the turiya state has rising beyond all of that to what’s called the Atma- Vyapti, the pervasion of the self has been completed to such a degree, there is this stability of identity as transcendental wholeness coexisting with individuality permanently from that point on. And what’s fascinating about that, there’s many different things that are fascinating about it, but what’s fascinating about that is that that level is actually sort of the beginning point of many of the sadhanas that are talked about in the Tantric tradition. In other words, much of the Tantric tradition is then a reversal of what prior to that all practice is introversive. Practice has to do with going inside. Now you have this notion that now there is a process of extroversion, of bringing something out and down that is hidden, that has ordinarily been hidden, and so on. And that process then involves – it’s another understanding of refinement. It involves refinement of the breath, of the body-mind, of the senses, of the emotions, of the intellect, etc. and so on. And that, that refinement then is able to bring an experience that is – it has many different names. It’s called the divya chakshu in many of the terms, which is what we would call the celestial perception. In other words, the open-eyed perception of the inherent divinity and the inherent fluctuating, pulsating presence of the divine as the reality of everything altogether. And that then, finally, the tradition that says the Shiva Vyapti, even beyond that, is then this whole idea of everything, na shivam vidyate kvachit. There is nothing whatsoever that is not the absolute consciousness. But that, that is reached, as it were, through these stages, and you know, this sounds familiar. Because these understandings that we learned a long time ago are powerfully reflected. This is part of what I’ve discovered over many, many years. That these understandings formed and shaped a kind of ideology of stages. The Shiva Sutra says, “bhumis.” It says, “vismayo yoga bhumika,” the stages of yoga and the sense of enlightenment are astonishing. And there are many stages to that process. It’s not an on/off switch. It’s not just, you know, click on and you’re enlightened, click off and you’re not enlightened. It has all these gradations and yeah, yeah. So there’s a lot more to talk about with that.
Rick: Yeah, no, that’s really good. It’s important, you don’t hear people talk about developing celestial perception very often in the spiritual world around these days. I mean, there’s kind of a sense that, well, self-realization is the end of it, you know, and just enjoy that once it’s attained. But what you’re saying is, in a way, that’s the beginning of it and that there’s a whole
Paul: Yeah, it’s a prerequisite to really getting going on all kinds of developments that wouldn’t even be possible until the self has been realized. And funnily enough, a lot of people do speak of having unity consciousness. I don’t want to say perception, but they live life in what they feel is unity consciousness, seeing things in terms of the self, but they don’t generally mention having gone through a celestial perception phase. Do you think that things aren’t necessarily linear like that, or what? What do you think is going on?
Paul: Well, it’s hard to judge. I mean, it’s really hard to judge. I don’t know what specific cases you’re talking about in that sense. And you know, for all of these things, there are levels of attainment and there are levels of mastery. And yes, it is not linear in an ordinary sense. There can be apparent leaps of various sorts. Also, the difference between temporary states that assemble themselves for a period of time and then collapse, and they often collapse in the face of the fact that the samskaras, the residual traces of past action that are deeply embedded in the buddhi, in the pre-egoic consciousness. And the ego is the alaya, the dwelling place of the samskaras, so that at a certain moment, when the samskaras then are activated, they cause a, they corrode, as it were, a temporary state of attainment of one sort or another. It’s one way to understand why people can have a state that can persist for two weeks, can persist for two years, but then suddenly it disappears in a certain sense because something else has been activated inside. So yeah, it’s – the map, you know. I mean this is not something that, you know, I mean this is even from a different tradition. The map is not the territory, and you know, the map is a guide in a certain sense but the territory is super complex in terms of the actual lived experience of these different states. But, you know, the problem that arises because, then, if someone takes a temporary state as being or constituting a permanent attainment, then that can create problems as well.
Rick: Yeah, eventually they’re going to discover that it isn’t, but they can create a lot of trouble until they discover that. There’s a whole section in the Shiva Sutras or in one of these books you sent me about, you know, substandard teachers and the karma that one might have for getting involved with, them and how, nonetheless, benefit can be derived from teachers who themselves are not fully realized.
Rick: But, I don’t know, maybe it’s analogous to studying high school physics as opposed to going to Princeton and studying with top physicists in the world or something. You’re still progressing and learning physics even though your teacher is not top of the heap.
Paul: Right, exactly.
Rick: Yeah, although maybe that’s not a good analogy because presumably in high school physics they’re not, you know, distorting the teachings of physics as often happens in spiritual circles with teachers sort of garbling up messages and propagating them to people.
Paul: Yeah, it’s a complicated drama for sure. It has many different storylines in that regard. But I think that, you know, on the benevolent side, not the malevolent side of these things, but on the benevolent side, there’s no question that, before you can aspire to have a master class with, I don’t know, name some famous violinists. You’re really going to want to, you know, be put through your paces by many, many teachers who may not be at that level who, yet nevertheless, can communicate useful, important, and necessary pieces of practice and of, you know, right practice in terms of the violin or whatever it might be and communicate about history, communicate about, you know, and all of that.
Rick: It would kind of be a waste of Yitzhak Perlman’s time to actually deal with you if you’re a beginner.
Rick: It would be much more useful for him to just be dealing with the cream of the crop.
Paul: Yes, and that’s often the case that, you know, so therefore you get levels of, and so on. Now Abhinavagupta, he talks about the idea of eka guru. He basically says, “Look, there’s really just one teacher, that’s the absolute consciousness which takes on different personalities depending on the destiny and karma of different individuals.” And then also is, you know, takes on different flavors and different, you know, connects up with different traditions and so on. But there is fundamentally this idea that, you know, underlying all of that is an extraordinarily powerful energy of liberation, of elimination, of encouraging the individual growth of consciousness in any one individual or group of individuals to, you know, to proceed forward. So, yeah.
Rick: There’s this concept of jnana vijnana and a question just came in from John in Atlanta who asks, “What is the relationship between direct experience in meditation and intellectual conceptualization about that experience? Do they complement one another?”
Paul: Yeah, yeah. And yes, complement is a great word. I mean, I think that often it is the case that a person can have experiences and not understand them. And if you don’t understand them, you also can’t value them, and you can’t really also persist in cultivating them in a certain kind of way. And there’s a sense almost in the sense of saying that you haven’t had the full experience until you have actually fully understood it. So that you have this synergy between jnana and vijnana, between sort of intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge, and that both of them are necessary. In other words, it’s like reading about – I always talk about growing up in South America and as a little kid, you know, growing up surrounded by mangoes and then going to my graduate school – I mean, my prep school, which is the school where we interacted at one time, the Taft School. And in 1962, arriving at that school and casually talking about mangoes and people going, “What’s that?” Whole Foods hadn’t begun to import mangoes in 1962, you know. And so it was like, well, trying to tell someone about a fruit that they’ve never tasted is a pretty difficult thing. But at the same time, you know, conversely, knowledge about what it is that’s being tasted is also a necessary piece of – I’m not speaking about mangoes anymore, but about speaking about attainment in that way. I think that, so this is also part of the difference between a renunciatory and householder path. In other words, many renunciatory traditions simultaneously cherish and denounce knowledge in a curious kind of way. They cherish it but they also want to denounce it in a certain kind of way that has to be done away with. And you know, you have to go beyond even all of that. Whereas the Shaiva tradition worships knowledge as one of the forms of consciousness and has this understanding of two different kinds of knowledge that are also necessary. So you have a different kind of differentiation there. The knowledge of the self and the knowledge that arises in terms of the kalpa and so on. So, yeah.
Rick: Yeah, I remember Maharishi used to use the analogy of a man picking up a shiny rock on the road and putting it in his pocket, not knowing that it was a diamond because he didn’t have the knowledge of a jeweler. And so, he’s carrying around this valuable thing and he might throw it away because he’s tired of putting it in his pocket. He might give it to his kid to play marbles with or something. And to translate that into actual examples, you know, we’ve probably both seen examples of people who were meditating and having good experiences and benefiting, but sort of not realizing how significant it is that those things were developing. Like I’ve run into people who’ve said, “Yeah, well I learned to meditate because I wanted to feel more calm and now I feel more calm so I’m giving it up,” or “I wanted to have more energy and now I have more energy so I’m giving it up.” And so, the kind of knowledge of not only what they’re experiencing, but what they could potentially experience if they keep at it. You know, it sort of keeps the path alive and safeguards it.
Paul: Beautiful. Absolutely right. You know, it’s a beautiful analogy and again, Abhinavagupta uses the same analogy. He says, “The jeweler is able to look at a great mass of stones and pick out the one stone that is valuable as opposed to the other stones that are semi-precious or that are just trash.” And does so instantaneously and that that’s a product of a knowledge and experience by means of which there is this capacity to understand and to really hone in on certain things that are significant, that are important, that are precious and valuable as opposed to things that are temporary or not so important or are actually detrimental in some way, speaking in terms of the path. So it isn’t just intellectual knowledge in terms of ideology. It’s also sort of the application of knowledge in the field of experience that allows you to see nuances of experience and allows you to cultivate those nuances so that they become more powerfully established. And that’s, I mean, this text that I’ve been studying for a very long time, the so-called Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, which is an extraordinarily beautiful document, is a text that is filled with nuanced understandings about the life of meditation. It is really a very rare text because it’s, to my knowledge, the only text that’s focused entirely on meditation in that sense. And then all these different nuanced aspects and dimensions of what happens as one practices and lives a life of meditation that are then going to be highlighted or cultivated as a result of someone drawing your attention to it, you’re able to say, “Oh, let me develop that a little more. Or let me recognize the importance of that a little bit more in that way.”
Rick: Can you give us some examples of some of those things? D; Well, I mean, I think that the text, for example, speaks about, uses the concept of madhya. And so madhya means to be twixt-in-between and this is a very common understanding nowadays. People talk about the space between the breaths or the space between thoughts or the space between states of consciousness. But understanding what that is, in a certain sense, when people go into meditation many times, they will begin to experience that there is a change, for example, in their breathing pattern, And that as the breath gets refined and gets more and more subtle, something opens up in that space between the breaths and what is that? So the tradition says that’s called the madhya space. And it’s the entry into that space is what will lead to, eventually, the cessation in a breathless samadhi of all activity of waking consciousness or dream or deep sleep in a notorious state in that way. And that understanding how that occurs, at sort of a microcosmic and a sort of mezzo and macrocosmic level, in terms of the presence of absolute consciousness that is identifiable or locatable or that suddenly flashes forth in these different circumstances in that way. So it’s putting a name to a certain kind of experience that people might have and allowing that person to value it and understand it as opposed to a person saying, “Well, I don’t know, it’s just my breath changes and so what?” You know, that doesn’t mean anything.
Rick: Yeah, I think another good point to throw in here is that with all this talk of experience and knowledge of experience and analyzing it and all that, it’s good to remember not to compare yourself to others or envy them if people are having some particularly profound experience. Don’t beat yourself up over it if you’re not. I’ve seen people get stuck in that. I’ve gotten hung up on that myself in the past. It’s just like things will happen when they happen and all is well and wisely put and just be true to yourself and don’t sweat it if you’re not having some particular thing.
Paul: Yeah, for sure. It’s a beautiful point, absolutely. And it’s walking our own path in that sense and being devoted and dedicated to our own evolutionary growth and not so much looking here or there or envying or aspiring to something that may be unnecessary or artificial or simply actually serve as an obstacle. Someone else’s positive experience may actually be an obstacle for us in a certain kind of way.
Rick: Yeah, sometimes if people are wired a certain way, they have certain kinds of experiences which you’ll never have because you’re not wired that way.
Paul: Right, yes, exactly. Some people have visions and other people have auditions and other people have bodily sensations and other people have nothing whatsoever on that front. And so, yeah, for sure.
Rick: Yeah. Let’s see. Got a couple of questions that came in from people. Here’s one that Devin from Hawaii asks, “If consciousness is fundamental, how do we understand evolution in the Darwinian sense in terms of our consciousness and sense of self? How do we reconcile this with a sense that humans evolved towards a state that gave us survival advantage?”
Paul: This is, um, hi Devin! I know, I know this person is asking.
Rick: Yeah, it’s a great question. Very smart guy.
Paul: I think that trying to parallel the meaning of this term “evolution” with Darwinian concepts of evolution, etc., and so on, is a mistake. This was a, it’s a terminological mistake. It’s why I tend to not use the word “evolution” so much, although I fall into it sometimes when I fall into my older speak in a certain kind of way. But it’s really about a certain kind of growth, and that there are many, many levels that, I mean, again, to bring it back to the Shaiva-Shastra tradition, one of the things that Abhinavagupta talks about is the tradition he calls “krama.” The Krama tradition, krama means “sequence” or “sequentiality,” and the mapping of the inherent sequences of reality is part of the realization of the mechanics, or the mechanical structure of how everything grows, how everything evolves, how everything is programmed in a certain sense. So you have these sequences that happen in life where you could say, “Well, you’re a baby, and then you’re a little kid, and then you grow up.” So that’s one sequence. Or you have the sequence of time itself, or you have sequences in terms of knowledge that says, “Well, you’re in kindergarten, or you’re in graduate school, and everything that’s in between.” So this idea of krama is very fundamental. And then there are, you know, the sequences reveal themselves in different ways. So you have a kind of sequential manifestation or expression of organic life that was called evolution by Darwin, and I’m no expert in Darwinian evolutionary theory, etc., and so on at all. But nevertheless, you have that movement of the organic structures and the genetic play, the adaptation to environment, etc., and so on. The whole idea that even within a single lifetime, a person can genetically modify to respond to their environment in different ways. And then, you know, organisms grow and evolve in relationship to external circumstances and also to what is inherited, nature versus nurture, all of that stuff. But all of that has to do with a certain kind of surface level of reality, and that it may have a certain mechanical quality to it. It may be almost a kind of a machine that is operating, not because God has abandoned it in the sort of deistic sense. But nevertheless, there is a sort of automaticity to the machinery of the physical structure of the universe that is self-replicating over time and doing the same thing over and over and over again, and modulating with each so-called sameness what is appearing at the surface, etc., and so on. And what the Shaiva masters then say is: Look, those sequences that are replicating themselves over billions of years in terms of the physical universe and what appears in life, etc., and so on, which who knows what is happening on other planets where life forms are growing, but we can speculate in a certain way that there may be similar or parallel, or at least recognizably sort of parallel processes. All of that is taking place because there is another level of potency that is generating those sequences. And that sequence, that sort of sequence generator itself, is the result of a yet deeper level of what could be called meta-sequence generators, and that then you have this reality at the absolute level that transcends all sequences, is akrama in a certain kind of way. So, they’re not interested so much looking at a kind of a horizontal level of the evolution of organisms in time and the way that these things move and so on. Rather they’re looking at the shifts and changes that happen, particularly when you add another element into awareness. They’re not mapping. They’re not scientists in our Western sense. They are scientists of consciousness but they’re not mapping the changes of organisms. They’re mapping the notion that says, when an individual undergoes a certain transformation inside themselves, then what begins to happen as you add elements of transformative practice into the circumstance of that individual and what reveals itself in that way. So I’m not sure I’ve even understood Devin’s question, but you know.
Rick: Not sure I have did either, but one thought that comes to my mind is you can use evolution for both spheres of knowledge if you want to. But in the Darwinian Sense, it’s the evolution of physical vehicles, you know, up the evolutionary scale. In the spiritual sense, it’s the evolution of souls and the taking on of souls of more sophisticated vehicles as is appropriate to that level of evolution. And so, they kind of dovetail in a way because we need Darwinian evolution for more evolved life forms to develop and souls need those more evolved life forms as vehicles for their evolution as souls.
Rick: Does that make sense?
Rick: Here’s another John submitting a question, this one from Dublin. “It has been said that the Yoga Vasishta is quite similar to Kashmir Shaivism. Is Paul familiar with that and, if he is, what does he think of the philosophical similarities and differences?”
Paul: The Yoga Vasishta is a very beautiful text and it certainly seems to historically originate in Kashmir. It is a syncretistic text, however, when one looks at it. It doesn’t represent a single philosophical outlook. It has elements of sort of Puranic Shaivism, of Vedanta, of sort of the Ramayana elements because Rama plays an important role there and so on, and his guru, Vasishta, and so on. And it also involves certain aspects and dimensions of Indian storytelling where you get stories within stories within stories that are characteristic, for example, also the Mahabharata where you have a narrator. And then the narrator starts telling a story about somebody else telling a story and so on, and you get lost in these sorts of things. It’s a very beautiful text, but I don’t think that it is a text that represents purely the outlook of so-called Kashmir Shaivism. It is a text that has an admixture of different perspectives. And yes, I love the Yoga Vasishta. I’ve dipped into it for many, many years. It’s sort of a shorter version and a longer, the Laghu and the Brihat versions and so on. And it has these paradoxical stories of kind of astonishing revelations of reality. And on a certain level, it’s almost like reading those stories or listening to those stories is meant to awaken us to the notion that this life may in fact be a sort of a dream-like life that is taking place when we’re asleep in some other dimension of reality on our nice sort of cosmic bed, and we’re dreaming all of this in a certain way, etc. and so on. And that, that “wow,” amazing, astonishing kind of idea of awakening from the dream and all of that is part of the vocabulary of spirituality is very much implicit in that. But it has a very strong impact of Vedanta in it as well, and other traditions as well that are there. Obviously, Rama is one of the avatars. Just the idea of Rama receiving shaktipata basically is what is happening as sort of the story of the, and his teacher then telling him all these stories as a way of allowing him to awaken from the dream of his own. It’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful book.
Rick: One thing that some people say, people who in some cases near-death experience people or people like Michael Newton who regressed thousands of people to experience the place between lives, is that it can very well be that only a portion of our soul sort of incarnates and is living this life, let’s say 25% or something, while the other 75% is still very much doing its thing on some other loka or some other level. Or that in fact, even 25% could go here and 25% there, there could be two lives being lived by this one soul. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but you could think of like, for instance, bees who some say the whole hive is one sort of entity and the little bees are just sort of like cells in that entity.
Paul: Right, right, exactly. That’s beautiful. I like that. I like that very much and you know, again, it’s part of our speculation. The issue is to what degree does understanding something like that help us and inspire us and move us along in terms of our own growth, evolutionary growth if you want to call it that, in our own path? And to what degree is it just sort of amusing or entertaining but isn’t particularly transformative or profoundly impactful? It just has a sort of a, you know, kind of a, yeah.
Rick: Well, everybody likes eating a few potatoes, but you can’t live on them.
Paul: I love that. You’ve got some great phrases there.
Rick: I just made that one up.
Paul: Very creative.
Rick: One thing I want to make sure to talk to you about while we still have time is, and there are many things in my notes here which we could spend an hour on each point, but one thing I want to bring up is what’s happening in the world today. You alluded to it a little bit three years ago in our interview. But boy, things have really heated up in the past few years and it might be helpful, even though again we might be speculating a little bit, to try to put things in a broader perspective. And part of what I wanted to weave into this particular part of the conversation is this. I’m just going to read this. This is something from you. “These days, people on a spiritual path are very into listening to their own inner wisdom and following their intuition. But this is frequently undertaken without the knowledge and guidance of the profound texts and without the essential eradication of the samskaras that tinge and color their intuition with the detritus of past actions and experiences. In other words, there is a rush to act from knowingness without having done the work that permits an unblemished knowingness to arise.” And I’m reminded of conspiracy theories which are just going wild these days, where you hear people saying, “Well, I started doing the research and I went deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.” And to my mind, it looks like they’ve gotten brainwashed by all kinds of ideas because they are lacking in discrimination and are very impressionable. And it’s like a cult thing where you’re not just going to snap out of it. You get deeper and deeper into it and it’s going to take a while to come out of it again. So that kind of, it’s part of the picture of what’s going on in the world today. But there’s also more to that picture and I’d like to hear what you have to say about it all.
Paul: Well, I mean, I think I’m very cautious about making big “pronunciamentos” about the circumstance of what’s taking place on the planet. I mean, there is obviously a perspective of the ancient tradition that looks at it in terms of a certain kind of karmic explosion in a certain kind of way. And that for whatever reason, for whatever cause, for whatever explanation, which we still don’t have any real idea about scientifically, people are still arguing and probably will argue, who knows, for a long time. Was it man-made? Is it a natural thing, etc., and so on? Who knows?
Rick: What, the virus?
Paul: The virus, yeah. But that we are living through a planetary time of extraordinary poisoning, in a certain sense, a sort of planetary poisoning of one sort or another. And that, again, arguments on a sort of political level or social level, was it necessary, was it not necessary, whose fault is it, could it have been avoided? etc., and so on. I mean, we know that the Yoga Sutras, this is one of Maharishi’s most favorite sutras that I remember him quoting all the time, “Heyam dukkham anagatam.” In other words, “Avoid the suffering that has not yet come.” And I think that in assessing his life, which still requires a tremendous amount of study to really understand who he was. And he is really still very deeply misunderstood, in my personal opinion, to understand that his work during his lifetime was on a planetary scale in terms of trying to avoid certain kinds of planetary disasters from happening. And that this is part of the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra has this extraordinary nyaya. It’s called the Dagdha Bija Nyaya: “A burnt seed cannot sprout.” And so, how do you burn the seeds of negative samskaras in particular? Now, individuals have negative samskaras. But the collectivities, sort of the collocation of these negative samskaras, also sort of summate, in a certain sense, to invent a slightly awkward word, in terms of the summation of all of them, in terms of the destinies and the unfolding karmas of groupings in a particular time and space, and larger and larger groupings. And we have a circumstance that is affecting at least most of the planet. There may be places that are avoiding this right now. But that life as we know it has dramatically shifted, almost, as they say, in a twinkling of an eye, although it didn’t happen in a twinkling of an eye. It was creeping up on us and we didn’t know it, and so on. So how to interpret these things from a spiritual perspective? I don’t like to lock these things down, but in terms of, you know, the Indian tradition in many, many of its branches has this understanding that says, “How do you bypass famine? How do you bypass widespread epidemics?” These were considerations from thousands of years ago. “How do you bypass crop failures and starvation? And also, how do you bypass war, in a certain sense, or civil unrest, or extraordinary violence in that way? How do you establish a society on the basis and foundation of a certain kind of harmony, a certain kind of luminosity, a certain kind of love, etc., and so on?” And that clearly this has something to do with consciousness. It’s clearly about certain kind of restrictions or “in-darkenings” in consciousness versus illuminations and expansions in consciousness that then create the summations of various kinds of expressions at the stula level. So the effects of these things as they reveal themselves at a surface or stula level, you know, are one thing. And then the sources, sort of the tracing back through the structure of reality to try to discover what are the mechanisms by means of which one could either bypass something and destroy it before it arises and expresses or explodes at the surface, or in fact, it then explodes at the surface. And at that level, you know, as our teacher used to say, “You have a problem.” “Once you have a problem, you have a problem.” And basically, and to solve things at the level of the problem is very, very difficult. The whole ideology of the tradition was to dissolve things, to dissolve them before they’re able to express in this negative kind of way. And at certain periods of time, you know, when I think back to my time that I spent with Maharishi Ji, basically, I experienced the entire time that his focus was planetary. He was a Jagadguru, and he was looking at the destiny of the entire humanity and not Anyone. He wasn’t a guru in the sense of a teacher to individuals in that sense. He was someone who was a planetary visionary. He was a rishi in the sense that he saw, he had long vision. He saw far back into the past and far into the future and far into the depths of reality and saw mechanisms of reality by means of which then he attempted in the span of, you know, a single, blessedly long but still short lifetime to have an extraordinary impact of bringing forward certain kinds of understandings and at least sparking them in the awareness. And that his idea of, you know, a time of dawning in a certain sense, which he announced to us, you know, in 1975. He had been sort of talking about this beforehand. But he talked about this idea of a time of dawning and that in the Indian tradition, they talk about the yugas, the eons of time. So, you have the so-called Kali Yuga, which is what, you know, supposedly we’re emerging from and then you have a Sat Yuga. But in between those periods, here’s another madhya space, and in between you have this idea of a Sandhya, a transitional time, which is neither one nor the other. Just like in the day when you have, you know, before the full day has come, the nighttime is still there, the mists of night are still there, the humidity of night and so on, and then finally the day dawns when the sun breaks the horizon. But that Sandhya time is a time that is neither one nor the other and expresses and shows characteristics of both. You know, simultaneously we can see a planetary phenomenon of awakening that is taking place. And it’s not just taking place in terms of spirituality. It’s taking place also in terms of civil justice, racial justice, political justice, you know, economic justice, sort of expansion of human dignity, etc. and so on, that is pushing against, you know, is it centuries or millennia of the opposite of all of that.? And then, yes, it is also expressing itself in terms of a transformation of understanding by means of which people can reassess what they have even imagined spirituality to be like. And I think that the Kali Yuga version of spirituality is severely diminished and impoverished and limited in a certain kind of way. And not that it isn’t great in and of itself, but that it’s the whole idea that walks on one leg during the Kali Yuga. You know, the Dharma walks on one leg only. And so that the re-blossoming of a richer, more complex, more deeply rooted in authenticity of teaching of an extraordinary sort, kinds of understandings, that we’re still in process with. And that’s something that, if I look at myself and I say, you know, what am I trying to accomplish? I’m trying to accomplish, yes, on the one hand, I’m wanting to offer practices of deep experience and of deep inner transformation. But at the same time, I’m wanting to speak about the idea that there are sources of authentic knowledge that we should be attending to and we should be looking at in order to “complexify,” to enrich, to deepen, to deeply root what it is that we imagine spirituality to be about that doesn’t just arise from the kind of machinations of individuals’ minds and their creativity, however great those may be in individual cases and so on. But that it also takes into account the fact that we have a past in which extraordinary beings spoke, sometimes to very small groupings. I mean, Abhinavagupta had a very small kula, he had a very small grouping of followers around him that he impacted individually. But yet, the impact of his teachings, you know, sort of was invisibly present, but yet very powerful for a thousand years. And then it resurfaces once again to this understanding of this idea of the householder path versus the renunciatory path, which is something that, as you know, this was Maharishi Ji’s first talk when he began to speak after he had spent time in Uttarakashi and so on, was precisely about the differentiation between householder practice and renunciatory practice, and the differences between those two. And that’s something that I remember being, I mean, like you, we were teenagers. I mean, we were just unbelievably impacted by this extraordinary being who was speaking about nuanced differentiations with regard to knowledge that were far beyond the sort of ways in which these things have been spoken about before. And I think that that distinction, which he first began to talk about whenever that was, I think in ’58 or whatever, is still not something that has been understood fully in terms of the way that people approach the idea of devoting themselves to something life-transforming, to something that causes life to blossom. Because it causes a separation from ignorance and from freedom, you know, an entry into higher and higher domains of freedom, and also to an awareness of the exquisiteness of what surrounds us. We are surrounded by the celestial goddess at every place. We, you know, she is operating in the mist, in the fog, in the trees, in the rain, in the sunshine, in the stars. She is everywhere, but yet we can’t see her, really. She’s hidden in a certain kind of sense, just like in Roman mythology, you have the, the wood nymphs and the river naiads and all of that stuff. So too here, you know, the idea of the devas that are pulsating everywhere around us and yet we are blind to that reality. So opening to that, and then also, yes, opening beyond the celestial to the transcendental reality of existence also. But what are we going through right now? It’s really, I mean, you know, in the Shaiva tradition, you have this myth that the devas and the asuras combine together in an extraordinary cosmic enterprise of churning the ocean of milk. And they want to churn the ocean of milk in order to receive the pot of nectar, the amrit kalash, as it were. And yet halfway through that extraordinary enterprise, in which they, they upturn a mountain and they wind the serpent, the basuki is the winding, you know, rope, etc. and so on. The poison that is hidden in that ocean rises to the surface. And that, this is a myth. It’s not historical fact but nevertheless, it’s extraordinarily illuminating understanding. It says when you’re churning in this way, what is hidden and concealed in terms of the hidden agony of humanity rises to the surface and expresses itself and takes shape in a variety of different ways. And for me, living in a kind of slightly sort of archetypal mythological universe, I see this as, this is where Nila Kantha comes from. Because then, you know, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu call on Lord Shiva, who is up in the Himalayas. And he comes down and he sits in his, it’s called the mantra murti. In the form of the mantra, he sits at the edge of the ocean of milk and he puts his left hand into, and the poison begins to rise up, his hand into his throat, and you know, he is able to transmute that poison in a certain kind of way. And that, you know, this is Sadashiva. This is the primordial form of Shiva, the eternal Shiva of the earlier Shaiva tradition, not so much in the later Tantra tradition where he appears as Bhairava. But so, I don’t know. You know, I mean, it’s a mystery on some level, and it’s an extraordinary passage for us. We’re living with life and death, you know. We’re living with life and death at the passing sneeze of a stranger on the street in that way. And yes, there are people who deny that, etc. and so on. And yet, I don’t know. I mean, I just reread the statistics and they are positively terrifying in a certain kind of way. It’s not the ultimate destiny of the planet to be poisoned in this way. But yet, nevertheless, this is a passage that for whatever reason, whether it could have been avoided, should have been avoided, might have been avoided, was not. And here we are, you know, living this. And then the question is, you know, how to live with that. And I think that one of the things that I’ve experienced in my own practice over many, many years has been, you know, the living with the awareness of death, not as something negative, but as something that activates and illuminates a ferocity of intent inside with regard to saying, “yes, we have limited time in this body. We have limited time on this planet. We have an enormity of tasks on many different levels of life to accomplish and to achieve. And we therefore must be excruciatingly careful and judicious and intelligent about the choices that we make and the arenas that we get involved in and the ways that we invest ourselves in a certain kind of way to make maximum use of that time.” I, you know, in my own life, I mean, speaking very personally, I live with an extraordinary sensation of the brevity of time, the brevity of life. I always tell people life is basically three days long. You know, one day you’re 30, the next day you’re 60, and the next day you’re heading into the white light, basically. And you know, whether you make it or not, it depends in great measure to what you’ve done, you know, in those previous, however many decades of life you have gotten. And some people, as we know, don’t even make it to 30 in that way. So it is a time, I think this is precipitating all kinds of radical shifts and changes, and people are suffering horrendously. There’s no question about that. But at the same time, in terms of, you know, I look at myself and I say, well, I actually, I have lived most of my life in a kind of lockdown in a certain kind of way in terms of deep study and deep practice, whether it was a scholar, whether a meditation practitioner, and then now as a teacher, it’s living with the inner self, living with the domain of the purity of consciousness, turning to that aspect of reality and really cultivating that assiduously and in a prolonged kind of way. Not because we’re going to magically cause this thing to disappear, but because it forces and compels us to understand we have limited time. That’s, you know, reincarnation and all of that. But I always say very strongly to people, don’t just count on reincarnation because it’s way, way more complicated than one can imagine, you know, in terms of receiving a human body, etc. and so on. It’s really, it’s way more complicated than that. And so we’re here now and we want to make the maximum use of the time. And of course, everybody will have their own opinion of what that means, to make the maximum use of time. But for me, I think that this is actually something – it’s not that it has a silver lining in any sense. But it is something that powerfully motivates a yet more potent one-pointedness of awareness. I’m saying, whatever path you’re on, pursue that path with great vigor, with great devotion, with great dedication. Use this time advisedly and purposefully and don’t just allow, you know, yourself to meander off into depression or into fear or into uselessness of a certain sort in that way. Yes, it’s scary to even go, you know, put gas in your car can be scary these days, in a certain kind of way. But at the same time, then, I feel blessed about having a path in my own life that I can turn to and I can sit and say, “Well, fine, so I’ve lived.” You know, we’ve both done very long retreats in our past time. And I feel okay, this is my, you know, I did a six-month course, this is my 18-month course, this is my 24-month course, whatever it may be, however long it is. I’m devoted in that way to actually, in a way it’s welcome in the sense of I get to read and I get to study and all of that where I’ve spent 12 years on the road, which also has its great delight and charm and something I certainly miss. But I don’t know, Rick, I mean, I don’t, you know…
Rick: There’s a lot in that answer. Sometimes I think that the reason people are going so nuts is that they’re kind of on a forced retreat these days and they’re not used to being on a retreat, and you know what can happen on a retreat when you’re not used to it. And a couple other quick thoughts. You know, the first time I ever heard about this idea of phase transition or big shift in society was in about ’75 with Maharishi on a boat right on Lake Lucerne. And someone asked him, you know, “How can we survive this?” And he said, “Hold on to the self.” And you’ve kind of just said that. Amma often says, she’s not morbid by any means, but she often says, “You never know when your next breath might be your last. And you should live like a bird who’s perched on a branch that could break at any time.” And a friend of mine was in his garage the other day working on something and fell off a ladder and died just like that. So you never know. So “Make hay while the sun shines.”
Paul: Yes, indeed.
Rick: I want to, before we close, I want you to talk a little bit about what you teach and how people can get involved in various ways. But we had talked earlier about householder versus recluse mantras. And a question came in from Abhi in Denmark. And let’s try to wrap this answer up in just a minute or two. But Abhi wants to know, “If I want to understand Aum, where do I begin? I am told that it is the sound of the universe, and also I’m told that many read endless books and still won’t grasp it completely. Any advice, where can I begin?”
Paul: Well, I mean, in terms of text, the famous text is the Mandukya Upanishad, which is all about Aum. So that’s the, if you want to read a text that tells you about Aum, that’s certainly, you know, it’s a beautiful, it’s one of the classical Upanishads, readily, easily available translations of it from Sanskrit. It’s the so-called Mandukya Upanishad. Of course, Aum appears in many, many different places in the tradition and is talked about endlessly in many, many different pieces of the tradition. But yes, I would say, get a copy.
Rick: But as a mantra. D; Yeah, what about it?
Rick: I mean, I wonder if Abhi is wondering whether he should meditate on, or she should meditate on Aum as a mantra. And is that something Kashmir Shaivism would, does Kashmir Shaivism hold this notion that using Aum as a mantra is for recluses?
Paul: The historical evidence on that, I’m still working on that, but there’s this very beautiful text called the Soma Shambhu Paddhati which has a list that seems to reflect this understanding of Aum being particularly for the paramahansas, as it’s called. You know, the great beings who have gone forth from ordinary life, etc. and that you have different versions. I mean, and you know, it’s interesting because, for example, the mantra Aum Namah Shivaya, people think Aum Namah Shivaya, but in fact, the original mantra, which is in the Vedas, it is a Vedic mantra actually. It’s in the Yajur Veda, it’s in the Rudram, is Namah Shivaya, the Panchakshari, the five-syllable Panchakshari mantra, which later on then gets modified by the addition of Aum, etc. And these are, I mean, these are nuanced complexities that can, people get upset about this topic many times when I talk about it, and so on. I remember Maharishi saying to us, “close notebooks,” and then saying Aum is a mantra for death. And this was something that really shocked all of us in the hall when he said that. And what he, I don’t pretend to know exactly what he meant, but what I heard him talking about is saying that at the time of leaving your physical body, you will leave on the pulsation of Aum, which will carry you back into the absolute in a way that is permanent as opposed to in a way that is temporary in a certain kind of way. But you know, there are different understandings about this, and I know that there’s, there are tons and tons and tons of people who are meditating on Aum and using Aum as a meditation mantra. And then, you know, as they say, people always say this, it’s one of my pet peeves: “The proof is in the eating of the pudding, not in the pudding, it’s in the eating of the pudding.” The proof is in the pudding. It’s, you know, what happens when you use powerful mantras of this sort, how does it reorganize and restructure your life? And certainly, my own feeling about meditation is that you should go and learn meditation from someone who knows about meditation, and that learning meditation from a book I’ve never thought was a smart way to go. I know that there are people who do it, and people, you know, there’s articles on the internet that will teach you meditation on YouTube in five minutes, etc.
Rick: Well, that’s a good segue into how you teach meditation. I noticed on your website, it seems like it’s being taught every weekend on Zoom. Is it taught individually on Zoom, or to a whole group of people? And what is it, how does it work?
Paul: Well, the Zoom thing is a recent thing. I mean, it’s basically-
Rick: Because of the pandemic.
Paul: Exactly. I mean, typically up until, you know, this year, it’s an individual process, and it is taught, it’s usually learned in person. But it’s just a question of helping people long distance that we’ve, you know, taken the recourse to technology in that way. And we’re finding, I mean, it was something that, honestly, on some level, I resisted it at first. I was like, “this is not the way that we’re supposed to go.” And yet, it has proven to be fascinatingly effective, actually. So it kind of caused me to reformulate my own understanding and realize, well, it’s not about the physicality. The stula level of the physicality is not what’s operative. There is something at a subtle level that is, you know, it’s not that it instantaneously transcends time and space, but that time and space don’t have the same meaning. Separation and distance are different with regard to these more subtle levels of, you know. I mean, I started out teaching, I was in the University of Rochester, and I just felt this very powerful sting start to happen in me in 2006, that I wanted to not any longer be a university professor. Not because, I mean, it was a great department, wonderful colleagues, I had wonderful courses there, beautiful experiences there for many, many years. And yet, there was this really powerful urging to take a leap and begin to offer, you know, teachings, and particularly what I wanted was to bring forward these teachings of Kashmir Shaivism and to really have people understand, you know, what is this text of the Shiva Sutras? What is this text of the Tantra Loka? What is this text of the Jnana Bhairava Tantra? And so on. And to offer translations of all of that so that people would have access to a different kind of literature of spirituality, because even today, you know, so many people are reading the texts only of renunciatory traditions. And they don’t have access to, they don’t even know it exists on some level, that you have a different kind of trajectory of teachings and of understandings, and even of fundamental principles. So that was part of the motivation, and within that, then, when I started teaching in 2006, I was like, okay, there was a group of people, I connected with a group of 25 people. And I said, “Alright, let’s just spend a year together talking about these things and really talking about what these teachings are.” And it kind of has organically grown from there, where at a certain moment I realized, you know, they do need to have a meditation practice. They also – I teach a dozen practices. There’s sort of what you see at the surface and then there’s also, you know, many, many, many other practices that are there that are accessed via an increased inner opening and inner sensitivity that comes through meditation. But so, you know, there’s a lot there.
Rick: Yeah, and your website is well laid out. And, you know, one can just go there and explore the different menus. And there’s plenty of places where they can click to get in touch and figure out what they can do.
Paul: Well said.
Rick: Alrighty, well, thanks Paul. I’ve really enjoyed this whole week preparing for this, listening to you, and then having this conversation with you.
Paul: Thank you very much, Rick. Thank you.
Rick: I think it’s great what you’re doing with your life and, you know, making a great contribution. Good perspective, like you say, just every moment is precious and you’ve been “making hay as the sun shines” so to speak.
Paul: I really, really admire what you’re doing. It’s an incredible work that you’re doing of this process of these conversations with so many different people. It’s really, it’s really very special and very unique and very admirable, and you know, making available so many different perspectives for people and allowing, kind of an open-ended conversation to happen in that way, just to, you know, discuss and understand. It’s beautiful what you’re doing. You guys.
Rick: Yeah. Well, as I’m sure you feel, it’s just, you feel like an instrument, you know?
Paul: Yes, exactly.
Rick: It’s not like you’re doing it. And of course, there are a lot of people doing things, my wife Irene here and a bunch of volunteers and couldn’t do it all without them. But I think we’re all just part of a little team of people, which is sort of a subset of a much larger team of, you know, around the world of people who are, just sort of, in their own way helping to shepherd in this transition to higher consciousness for the planet.
Paul: Exactly, yes, indeed. Well said. It’s beautiful. Thank you.
Rick: Thank you.
Paul: Blessings and love to you and take care and beautiful work that you’re doing and thank you again, very grateful for allowing me to be with you today. It’s really sweet to talk with you.
Rick: My pleasure and my blessing. So for those who’ve been listening or watching, thank you for doing so and this is an ongoing series. So if it’s new to you, as I said in the beginning, go to batgap.com and you can check out past ones. You can also sign up to be notified of new ones, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel. You know, this is all, you guys understand how to do this stuff. So do it if you like and thanks for being here and we’ll see you for the next one. Thanks, Paul.
Paul: Thank you, thank you, man. Bye-bye.