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Jivamukti Focus of the Month

Unlocking Wisdom Within

Brahmanandam parama-sukhadam kevalam jnana-murtim
dvandvatitam gagana-sadrsam tat-tvam-asyadi-laksyam
ekam nityam vimalam acalam sarva-dhi-saksi-bhutam
bhavatitam tri-guna-rahitam sad-gurum tam namami

Salutations to that inner Guru, the inner guiding light, which is never-ending bliss, the giver of supreme happiness, one-without-a-second, the pulsation of Consciousness, beyond dualism, beyond subject and object; which is like the blue sky and is indicated by such statements as “Thou art That” and “I and my Father are one”, and which is the final aim of life; one, eternal, pure, without pollution, all the time with you, the witness of all the wisdom, beyond all the states of being and beyond the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), electronic, protonic, and neutronic forces. I bow to that Guru.

From Tantrik Text and The Guru Stotram, translation by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati

Lord Shiva gives this mantra to Parvati after his teachings of Yoga. He tells his loving wife and student that by reciting the mantra she will find true liberation and understand that she and he are one.

Tantra Yoga is probably the most misunderstood form of yoga in the yogic system. Most westerners, removed from the roots of Tantra (India), think of Tantra as what Georg Feuerstein calls “Neo-Tantra,” a misguided mixture of western interpretation of ritual and mysticism. Tantra is a late system of Yoga appearance around 500 CE. It was the first of the “New Age” movements of the ancient Yogic traditions. Tantra was a system that was created during the Kali Yuga, a time of spiritual darkness (this is the time we live in now). Tantra system founders believed that during the Kali Yuga, the older Vedic rituals had lost their potency. This movement set out to completely change and shake up the establishment.

Tantra Yoga was the first Yoga system to focus on the human body — with great intensity — as the vehicle for liberation while living in the body. The traditions of Hatha Yoga are Tantra in their full scope. Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a Tantrik text. The Tantra system explores the human body and its connection to the natural world as a profound way of connecting to God. Tantra points out that if all that is around us is part of Param Brahma (Ultimate Reality), then how can the human body, which hosts the Atman (soul) be anything but Param Brahma also. The older Vedic system felt that the human body was weak and trapped the seeker in Maya (illusion). In Tantra, the body was to be kept in peak condition, so that it could be of full service to God and Guru. This newfound system pointed out that liberation could be found within the human body, both within pain and suffering, or pleasure and bliss, and that both experiences were only a flip side of the same coin: Purusha (unchanging Universal Principle) and Prakriti (material reality). Enlightenment only came through the understanding of both extremes and understanding that cosmic consciousness is within the DNA of the body. Tantra expressed that the human body and the natural world were the laboratories to understand divinity – and to understand that the body could not be overlooked as the tool to obtain Moksha (liberation).

Tantra Yoga always insisted that a seeker needs a living Guru. Through the teaching and guidance of that Guru the seeker would learn that all teaching came from within. Students only had to understand that God, Guru, and student are one, just as Lord Shiva and Parvati are one. The Brahmanandam Parama clearly states that the Ultimate Reality in the universe, or as Paul Jakob Deussen put it, “the creative principle which lies realized in the whole world” is within. This is non-dualism at its most extreme.

Earlier systems focused more on meditation and pranayama as the mode to self-realization. Few asanas were given. Tantra used all tools to get Kundalini Shakti to awaken, move upward, opening the chakras until it reached the Sahasrara Chakra the seat of the inner Guru (Param Shiva), creating a union between Shiva and his Shakti. This became a science in moving energy through the subtle body. All tools were used: Asana, mantra, meditation, bhakti, pranayama, ritual, and personal conduct, working together in the divine laboratory, the human body, to obtain union. This is Yoga as many of us still practice today, an integrated system rooted in the Tantrik traditions.

Once this awaking happens, the yogi finds true bliss, within the natural world. In a system that does not require the demise of the body-mind experience, but one in which object and subject are completely realized and celebrated. This liberation from human bondage, while still alive, is the Jivanmukta.

Teaching Tips

  • The word param means supreme. Pranama is to bow to the supreme, showing them great respect.
    • There are six forms of Pranama. Many of them are used in asana and or can be incorporated into asana. Teach students to bow in reverence, to God, Guru, others and themselves. Help them see that by bowing, otherness is absorbed into oneness with the Self.
    • The six forms of prostration:
      • Ashtanga- (done in Jivamukti Surya Namaskar) touching the earth with toes, knees, chest, palms, chin, with eight points of contact to the earth.
      • Shashthanga- lying face down with arms bent, hands on earth, elbows by ribs;
      • Panchanga- touching earth with knees (wide apart), chest, forehead, arms extended;
      • Namaskar- on knees, tops of feet and shins on earth; forehead on earth, arms extended and hands in prayer over head;
      • Dandavata- lying face down with arms extended along ears; hands in prayer above head;
      • Abhinandan- standing, bending forward, hands in prayer, hands touching chest.
  • Teach asanas where the Ajna Chakra touches the earth: Kurmasana, Malasana (squatting with forehead to the ground), Upavistakonasana and Balasana.
  • Teach a Jivamukti yoga sequence in strict Vinyasa. Jivamukti Surya Namaskar is great for this, but other Jivamukti sequences from Jivamukti Yoga: Practices For Liberation can be explored in the same manner. Teach the sequence on the right side; then let students do it on the left side on their own.
  • Teach the Jivamukti Chakra Tuning class.
  • Explore the bond between Lord Shiva and his Shakti, Parvati. Use examples of Ardhanarishvara and Shiva Lingam as ways to explain the concept of the natural world and the transcendental world as one.
  • Go deeper into the term “Guru”. Help students understand that teachers, whether academic or spiritual, are within us after the teachings; and that all teachers help us travel along this amazing journey of life.
  • Read Tantra, The Path of Ecstasy by Georg Feuerstein, to gain a greater understanding of the history and theory behind Tantra.