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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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Carin Oct 2, 2010 2:08pm

Perhaps the next step is the evolution and integration of non-dual psychology which incorporates the dismantling of thoughts and limited feelings via Koan instructions, and hence the overcoming of attachments and aversions using the deconstructive methods of Jinana Yoga. The invitation to methodically deconstruct the mind brings out the awareness and flow (rasa) of deepest bhakti even more so. The attachment towards knowing, wanting to know, being right, being smart, having the right view, knowing more than others, limits our spiritual flow in sadhana and sets us apart from the union we have available all the time. Kiirtan practices of course does that too but kiirtan in combination with non-dual deconstructive methods becomes even more powerful when the ancient wisdom traditions are integrated methodically. Tantra, may remain controversial for some time to come, as there is such strong attachment towards the outer "attraction factor" these days, and there is still less inclination to seek internally for the highest and deepest union. Hence, we still seek outside as a result and that seeking usually seems to end up in nothing but drama and suffering. Perhaps ultimately we have let go of the attachment to our understanding of tantra and the notion of what tantra really is, or is NOT, in order go deeper and beyond what is presented out there as a mere concept of grasping attachments and aversions. All we can do is to share the deeper version of tantra as presented here and feel the subtle inference and the inspiration within, as the realization of highest tantra is not something outside of us. Thank you Ramesh for sharing this with us. Very interesting topic to share.

Ramesh Bjonnes May 25, 2010 7:40pm

Integralhack, one thing to note is that Shankara, the founder of Advaita Vedanta was a great Tantric yogi, he was indeed known as such, so Vedanta is yet just another version on Tantra, as different teachers will emphasize and interpret nonduality differently. My teacher, Anandamurti, rather than emphasizing advaita (nondualism), he emphasized advaitadvaitaadvaita. That is, nondual, dualistic, nondualism. In other words, even though the ultimate reality is nondual oneness, he thinks it is important to highlight the two truths of reality and see the oneness in both–the absolute and the relative, the dual and the nondual. If nondualism only is emphasized, one may shun he world, but integral awareness embraces both the nondual and the dual. And thus having such a worldview is important. It makes a difference in how we conduct our lives and in how integral we are. His dictum was: subjective approach (inner practice) with objective adjustment (outer practice).

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Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes has traveled the world as a meditation teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner, author, and is currently the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center teaching yoga, meditation, and juice rejuvenation. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurvedic Medicine at California College of Ayurveda, and naturopathic detox therapy at the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He is the author of four books, and he lives with his wife Radhika and Juno, a sweet, gentle Great Pyrenees, in the mountains near Asheville, North Carlina. Connect with him via his website: prama.org and rameshbjonnes.com.