May 18, 2010

What’s the next step in America’s spiritual (r)evolution?

Some believe Tantra is the next step in America’s spiritual ®evolution. But why?

One common vision held by all schools of Tantra is the notion that everything is Divine. This spiritual realization—that every form, particle or atom of this universe has an inherent capacity to reveal the Divine; that everything is, at its core sacred; that is the essence of Tantra.

Another fundamental aspect of Tantra is that we must engage in a sustained spiritual effort (sadhana) in order to realize this inherent Divinity.

In other words, in order to experience sacredness in everyday life, we must practice spirituality—yoga, meditation, study, prayer and chanting—diligently.

Daily spiritual practice is essential in achieving results on the path of Tantra.

But, what about all those claims that spiritual realization is easy and will arise without much effort? What about those spiritual giants—saints such as Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi—whose spiritual awakenings occurred spontaneously, seemingly effortlessly, and very early in life? Can’t that happen to anyone?

Yes, it can. But it depends, in part, on our past-life karma. According to Tantra, those who are able to fully realize their own Divinity so suddenly and profoundly as these saints, they do so because of the accumulated merits acquired during previous lifetimes of spiritual practice.

In short, it is due to our accumulated good karma.

Tantra also signifies a spirituality that is vigorous and fearless, a spirituality that encourages and enables us to overcome limitations, phobias, worries and egotistical tendencies head-on.

This vigorous approach to spirituality is directly linked to another fundamental aspect of Tantra, namely the arousal of the kundalini force, which rests like a coiled serpent at the base of the spine.

When this dormant spiritual energy is awakened through mantra meditation, breathing exercises and yoga, it starts to rise through the seven chakras, or psycho-spiritual energy centers located along the spine.

Gradually, our consciousness expands, and ultimately this inner, transformational process results in full-blown spiritual enlightenment.

Hence, the Tantric path is signified by the proper use of energy, and Tantric yogis will not shy away from struggle, not even  the use of force, if necessary for survival or the protection of self or loved ones.

In other words, the Tantric interpretation of ahimsa (often incorrectly translated as non-violence) is a little different than Gandhi’s interpretation.

For the Tantric understands that all dualities, all conflicts and opposites, all forms and energies are different expressions of God that ultimately dissolve in a state of nondual unity and peace.

Tantra is thus slightly different from the other major school of Indian yoga philosophy, namely the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya.

Both Tantrics and Vedantists are nondualists—they both believe in the Oneness of existence—however, where the Tantrics see the world as Divine, the Vedantists see it as an illusion.

It is perhaps this holistic and practical attitude—that Divinity is everywhere and that sacredness can be realized anywhere—that makes Tantra so appealing to contemporary spiritual seekers. Indeed, according to several prominent yoga teachers quoted in Yoga Journal, Tantra is the “next step in America’s spiritual evolution

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