Beyond God Lies the Universe of Tantra

Any mind capable of conceiving an entity greater than its own must at least realize that that entity’s conception was imagined by it. It is in the imagination of the human mind that the supernatural entity God is created.

Level 4

Tantra places our popular idea of God at level 4 in the hierarchy of Tattvas. In ‘Tantra Illuminated,’ Christopher Wallis explains the concept of personal deity and provides a beautiful elaboration of the 36 Tattvas. In this context, beyond Level 4 – at Level 3 – is the super-conscious mind that starts demonstrating its separation from the idea of an external deity or an external God. God is irrelevant at this level because the Tantric mind (at Level 3) has transcended Level 4 – it has transcended God!

Level 3

At level 3, our consciousness is elevated to realizing that any deity or God is an act of individual Self Expression. It begins to separate the idea of God and Universe. In my words, it begins to realize the omnipotence of the universe – over the omnipotence of God – because even God needs “space” to live in! But at this level, “‘I’ also realize that the universe is inert, lifeless, and meaningless in its vast sterility. If not for the matter within it, its vastness is futile. And if not for an ‘I’ to acknowledge it, its absoluteness is incomplete!”

My ‘Self’ gives ‘Expression’ to the universe!

Religious people cannot accept such ideas simply because they won’t let themselves. Attaining Godliness itself can be rather scary, so they can’t – and won’t – let themselves imagine the possibility of consciousnesses beyond godliness. But Tantra goes further to state that any being can attain or experience this kind of consciousness at Level 3.

Though human beings are the smartest creatures we know, I will not state that only humans can attain this level. This may seem sacrilegious to many, but anyone who has a pet cat will know what I’m talking about! Whether accidently, or through the practice of Tantra Yoga, most higher-order animals can achieve this level of Godliness. It’s not surprising therefore to see Animists worshipping flora and fauna as deities!

Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats; even today, there are many who do. Here is a link to the Temple of Bastet: http://www.catmuseumsf.org/egyptcats.html
Couldn’t help myself with that side note on cats :) 
The deeper we go into our mind, the farther we go into the universe.

However, religious people too are quite smart! They argue that God cannot be imagined and is beyond any creature’s imagination. They don’t seem to realize the flaw in that logic: how can anything exist in the unimaginable?! But their counter argument is that God is an idea (or a reality) posited in the unimaginable! That is why blind faith is the only excuse for belief in God! But that is their problem!

Such a concept – by definition – puts a limit to our conscious experience and restricts our consciousness from expanding into other dimensions. Tantra does not allow that! Having gotten rid of the need for a ‘God who created the universe,’ or any God for that matter, the Tantriks had to unravel the mystery of the apparent infinite universe. And they did exactly that!

The next post will be on the 36 Tattvas of Tantra.

Problem of God… and Tantra’s Solution

There are too many problems with God. Let’s look at them quickly:

There are too many Gods!

Some religions like Hinduism have too many gods. Some Hindus are embarrassed by it, so they like to state that the different gods are merely manifestations of Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva. This is the inescapable Holy Trinity of Hinduism. But the fact remains that Hinduism has too many gods and to consider all of them omnipotent taxes even the most devout and religious Hindu devotee.

There is only one God!

The idea of a single God became necessary when too many gods led to disunity among human communities. Such unifying ideas were explored even among ancient Hindus, because people worshiping Vishnu and those worshipping Shiva considered each other as different religious groups. This is not hard to imagine. I live in Shillong where the different denominations of Christianity are – for all practical purposes – apparent as different religions.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have the same origins, yet their differences are omnipresent in our world. Their monotheism ranges from “a single god” to “worship of a single god.” The meaning is simple: some monotheists acknowledge the existence of many gods but worship only one, because their god is a “jealous god” forbidding his devotees from worshipping any other god. The shifting of beliefs from many gods to one and back to many has happened over thousands of years and will continue to happen. This only highlights the fact that eventually the idea of one god becomes boring!

Maybe there’s a God!

These are the agnostics: the card-carrying members of vague religious beliefs. Personally, these are people who have not thought much about god, or don’t care enough to explore either way, or are simply – as yet – undecided. I have no clue where they stand on the idea of god. I guess each has – or does not have – an idea of god.

There are too many Definitions

Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work in Quantum Physics. He is an atheist who stated the following in his book ‘Dreams of a Final theory’: “Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that they will find God wherever they look for him… like any other word, the word ‘God’ can be given any meaning we like. If you like to say that ‘God is energy’ then you will find him a lump of coal.”

Since there is no objective exploration of the existence of god, HIS omnipresence is an attribute of arising from the different views of different people. No wonder god is everywhere you look!

And then there is no God!

Atheists are boring people who lead rather insipid lives. There is neither heaven nor hell for them, and they go about their lives without enjoying the beauties and wonders of the universe. Of course, I’m kidding! But atheists do ignore the consciousness that gives rise to ideas of god, and the different manifestations of ‘god’s manifestation.’

Tantra, places God at level 4 in the hierarchy of consciousness. In my next blog entitled, “Beyond God,” I will elaborate on this level from a psychological perspective.

Balanced, Relaxed Asanas

Sthirham, Sukham Asanam! (Sanskrit) means that all asanas (yoga postures) should be done in a balanced and relaxed manner. Stated differently, one must have balance and be relaxed when doing any asana. It is important to “have” balance and that is acquired by being conscious of it. It is also important to “be” relaxed and that too is obtained by being conscious of one’s state of being!

Balance is not merely achieving proficiency in the yogic position or posture of an asana; it is ensuring positioning of the body with the appropriate breath. Take a simple yogic exercise as an example: touching your toes while standing. In this asana, you have to raise your hands over your head and bend down to touch your toes.

1. Raise your hands straight over your head while taking in a deep breath

2. Bend forward and down – slowly exhaling – and touch your toes (do not bend the knees)

3. Hold this position for a couple of seconds

4. Straighten up inhaling again

5. Relax by lowering your hands and breathing normally

The balance here is achieved by ensuring that you don’t bend your knees when you are trying to touch your toes and continuing to breathe as instructed. The instructions for this posture would be as follows:Raise your hands straight over your head while taking in a deep breath. Coordinating the breath with the movements required for a particular asana is the balance that the statement Sthirham, Sukham Asanam! talks about. But there is more! How does one achieve relaxation in a physically contorted – and often painful – posture?! The answer is simple: To achieve any kind of relaxation there can’t be any pain; some amount of discomfort is OK – and even recommended – but there can’t be any pain.

This is also achieved in a simple manner by doing the asanas slowly – very, very slowly. This ensures there are no sudden or jerky movements that may cause spasms or sprains. But what is simple to do is also simple not to do. And that is why one sees Yoga being performed like aerobics!

T’ai Chi is also like Yoga; it too is “meditation in motion.” Performing yoga in a slow, deliberate manner acquaints one with one’s own body. Close your eyes while doing Yoga; do the asanas slowly, and you will feel as if you are “talking” to your muscles and joints. Different asanas require different sets of muscles but in all of them you are also breathing in the right manner. In some postures, you are required to continue breathing in an apparently uncomfortable and contorted position. This is to help one attain relaxation and normalcy even in difficult positions.

I suffered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) in my right hand for many years, and when I sat to mediate in Sukhasan (sitting cross-legged on the floor), my entire right hand would go numb. I decided that with each breath I took I would imagine blood gushing into my right hand and with every exhalation I would imagine that my right hand has relaxed. Over several weeks, my right hand stopped becoming numb, and eventually I was rid of my CTS.

Many things can distract you from establishing a connection with your body: uncomfortable clothes, noise, other people, etc. But the most distracting things are those that many experts actually recommend. One of those things is counting! Counting while doing an asana is most distracting because it keeps the mind engaged with the mind and not with the body. Counting up to a certain number to help do the asana or holding a certain posture for a certain interval of time is helpful for beginners, but the sooner one gets rid of this practice the better.

At any given moment of time, the Yogi should be aware of his mind, his body, and his surroundings. To achieve this state, the practitioner should try and connect with his muscles, bones, tendons, organs, nerves, veins, capillaries… And a time will come when the body begins to speak and your mind will be trained to listen. Till then, remember: Every Asana must be relaxed to achieve a Balance between Mind, Body, and Breath!

A Tantrik’s Universe

As a practitioner of Tantra, I was fascinated by the sentence: “Existence, Knowledge, Infinite is Brahman.” I came across that sentence in a book entitled Brahma Sutra (an analytical anthology of all the Shlokas of Vedic and Hindu religions). And it captured my imagination, because the author stated that universal truths permeate the mindscape of ‘Intelligence’ waiting to be discovered by any serious and interested seeker. In essence, the statement meant that no one person has discovered these truths and that they don’t lie in the ownership of any one authority.

How beautifully that fits into the philosophy of Tantra: The serious seeker of knowledge can discern these truths spontaneously! Fired by that encouragement, I decided to mediate on that sentence to discover its meaning for myself. Given my scientific bent of mind and my meditations in tantra, I wondered what each word meant in isolation and how each idea connected to the other to give rise to such an amazing sentence.

Existence
I dealt with this word literally in its most obvious manifestation: I need to exist physically to be able to ponder on it. (Remember the definition of Tantra? So my body must exist!) Also, on the psychical level, my “I” has to exist to be able to explore the notion of existence. Nothingness too has some relevance here but I shall delve into that when I connect these different words meaningfully. In summary, the sentence does not exist if my body is non-existent and if my “I” doesn’t exist!

Knowledge
I need to have sufficient knowledge to even consider embarking on such an endeavor. Leaving aside any kind of anthropomorphism, let’s say that all vertebrates are so equipped. (I have no qualms about accepting that even some non-vertebrates are capable of doing so in their own way.) However, in the case of simple creatures (amoeba is one such example), though they exist, they cannot contemplate an utterly infinite ‘Infinity.’ It’s not enough to merely exist; one must also be equipped with contemplative abilities.

Infinite
As per my understanding, Tantra does not regard infinite as ‘infinity’ – the mindless, physical expanse of the universe. ‘Infinite’ is the adjective form of Infinity. It describes the endlessness and vastness of space. And it is also symbolic of never-ending time! (In future essays, I shall introduce the concept Tantric Time to better explain this endless space-time continuum.) Therefore, infinite is the sensation of an ever expanding, untiring and timeless expanse of the vast, vast, vast space-time continuum.

Brahman
I interpret this as a play on the words Brahmin and Brahmand. Without alluding to the Hindu caste system, a Brahmin is one who is wise and knowledgeable. The word Brahmand is simply the Sanskrit word for the infinite universe. While the first three words are building blocks, the meaning of the sentence climaxes in this last word Brahman.

How does this happen?
I exist, and my “I” can see the endlessness of the universe. I need the universe for my physical survival and to entertain me with its endless mysteries (besides the hope of meeting superior alien beings). In return, my consciousness — especially a tantric one — gives the universe its attributes: endless; timeless; having multiple-dimensions and time-warps; creating wondrous patterns and strange loops; providing sustenance to other life-forms and intelligences; and being the most important requirement for the simplest or strangest fabrications of the mind.

The universe not only ‘needs’ me to acknowledge its existence but also to create it. I have the power with my nothingness to destroy the universe. Nothingness (Zero) is my tool to negate the existence of Infinity. Nothingness is not a vacuum occupying some space in this vast Space – it is Nothing!

Infinity is a paradox seemingly bound by 8 alphabets or by the sum of our knowledge. Yet, it is endless because we are aware of our ignorance. Similarly, nothingness too is a paradox rendered meaningless by our attempts to define it by 4 alphabets ‘Zero’ – or even less – by the symbol ‘0’!
Zero survives in the mind which occupies space in the universe. Yet the same zero destroys the universe by its nothingness. Plainly put, when my tantric consciousness ends (I die), I descend into nothingness but not before taking the entire universe with me.