In the beginning of ones spiritual journey reflection plays a key role, yet this reflective nature is largely destroyed. This happens because the subtle split is eradicated and one simply “IS” (what they truly are/the Ishta) rather then using awareness to reflect on itself. This just seems to happen as one moves on the path, and any former vigilance of attention just becomes a natural vigilance of Being (without effort or contrivance of awareness). A Korean Zen master has a pithy teaching which sums up the meditative process in two easy steps. The teaching is “Don’t Know” and “Don’t Check”. “Don’t Know” is the openness which allows the true essence to become clear, and “Don’t Check” cuts the head off any self reflection involved. (In the Zen spirit, I am required to call the teacher a long winded fellow.) The same process is involved with the tantric work. In the beginning one has a “special” time that one gives attention to these qualities and maybe also brings the attention to bare through out the day, but one soon embodies the principles so fully that one is “That”. This is why I believe so much in the commitment of just doing the work (without anything required outside of this), as everything else will naturally fall into place. Why try to act in the world according to the “will” of Ma or Shiva (or those who tell us what the will entails) when one can become that very “will”? This way, your whole life is “spiritual” and you can be eating chips while watching some crappy TV show, and it is still a spiritual endeavor. The Guru can show you this because if you get close enough, you’ll see the Guru doing “mundane” things. Then you’ll either doubt the Guru or understand.
I strongly believe that some measure of non-dual realization is important before embarking on the Tantric path. It is often forgotten that Tantra is considered the highest path, so there should be some “space” generated through previous contemplation and meditation. In the Tibetan Buddhist system, one often moves through the Hinayana and Mahayana before entering Vajrayana. Before entering the Vajrayana, one also has to go through an addition sadhana of purification. Ideally, there should be a similar progression (of concentration and meditation if not name) when approaching the Kaula based traditions. The Hinayana is marked by contemplations which makes one come into touch with deep sincerity and a firmness of determination. The Mahayana is marked by meditation/contemplation of non-duality (“emptiness”) and compassion. On the flip side, Tantrics view matters in terms of energy, so the view is optimistic and regards what might be called attachments as potential sources of liberated energy. So one can bring many attachments (emotions, thoughts etc.) or afflictions to the path, and these can be used and transformed. It is best if there is the wisdom that understands this and the space given for this type of transformation already within the potential sadhak. This sort of transmutation of desire is of a very particular brand and is much different then the rubbish that seems to spring from the thoughts “hey, we’re indulgent morons, so lets just fully embrace this fact, and call it tantra”.
Having “good” roots before entering the Tantric path will allow one to move much more smoothly and understand the inner postures in the correct way. This means that the Tantric processes are in conjunction with ones life processes. This is the “art” of the Tantric path, and without this the endeavor (even if sincere) would be at the level of Bhakta. This is not to disparage the great tradition and potential of the Bhakta path, but for the Tantric path there cannot by “you” and “the divine” (or even you “trying” to become/internalize the divine). It must be one. When its One then one can be a bhakta if they like. With true non dual realization then one can split and not be sliced, and need not conform to “ideas” or semantic boxes about what non duality is/means (anybody who refuses to use a personal pronoun must have a tenuous grip on that wisdom). People often enquire about what they should do to prepare to move on the Tantric path. They often are doing some mantra or want some mantra, but this is usually not what is vital at that time. One should become extremely serious (for this the contemplation would be death, the cycle of suffering, and ones genuine opportunity) and one should become clear (for this the contemplation is the nature of “self” and/or the nature of Being). If these aspects (or contemplation) don’t resonate with someone, then they are a fetishist and not fit for the work. If one isn’t interested in Truth, Reality, and the energetic integrity of manifesting those inherent qualities, then I really don’t understand what they would want in this path.
The turning around of the awareness or simply resting in undifferentiated awareness will create the “space” in the potential sadhak. This wisdom has been turned for people in various ways and the texts and teaching on the wisdom are plentiful. The good thing about the abundance of information is that it is available, but the bad aspect is that people become hardened to it. The difference between successful sadhaks and those who are always griping about how “that didn’t work” etc., is the the good sadhak takes things to heart and dives into them one hundred percent. Take a teaching like “turn the awareness around and investigate the nature of the “I”” This is a classic advaita meditation, but what do you do with it. One type says, “yes,yes, one looks for the “I” thought and it is not present…I’ve heard this before, what else you got”. The other type turns the attention fully on this and will investigate (and not stop) until they rip apart the fabric of space/time itself. Take the teaching on unconditional love and compassion. One type will say, “yes, yes, we should all love unconditionally and have compassion, this is a very beautiful sentiment…you know I am very loving.” The other type will meditate on it so much that they become love itself and shine like the sun. So while everybody is waiting around for that “secret” teaching or most powerful mantra, the true sadhaks are living the secrets by taking up fully what is already available.
If the realization of ones true nature is not apparent, then one may not be able to do anything about it directly (as any contrived “force” may only perpetuate ego). What one can do is relax,open, and surrender. One has to relax the grip on self (as personality), open to the possibility that there is “something” greater, and surrender the need to always know. Ones true nature is the freedom that people are looking for, and this is the cosmic joke. So one need not “become” anything other than what they are, so it is just a matter of removing the obstructions to this inherent wisdom. Wheather the essence of ones true nature is apparent or not, likely one will need to use the sword of wisdom (through subtle awareness) to deal with the parts of ones being that are contracted or in tension. So one can open and soften, then look for any “sticky” places. One only need to bring these contracted “spots” into the light of awareness and they will dissolve. There is usually no need to take an approach which investigates the “why’s” of these places, as this usually just starts the cycle of thought and attachment. It will suffice to see them in the raw form (without any “story” attached to it), and this will pluck at the root. Just relax into being and surrender the tensions.
In Tantra, one no longer “surrenders” but take up the posture of victory. Also, one takes on a “tension” (of sort), so one cannot just wet noodle things on this path. The “tension” would be the energetic frequency/vibration that the sadhak embodies. If the energetic pathways are cleared of previous tensions, then one can better assimilate the “new” currents. This embodying is not a “becoming”, but rather an expressing. The Ishta is not “other”, but the enlightened form of your true nature. Some Tantrics will talk in terms of “other” (and some students may need to think in those terms), but this is a way of speaking and/or an expression of humility.
NOTE: I just sort of free styled this post, and will do so more on the blog page. I’ll include more short essays (or just thoughts) and tell some stories etc. More formal articles will sometimes be included or some may just go to the website. Less formal (and less thought out) posts will allow me to post more often though.