Can We Be Spiritual Without Inner Transformation? A Tantric Perspective.

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on Oct 3, 2011
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Some on the spiritual path, especially some Buddhists and nondualists, say that we do not need to transform, do not need to change in order to be spiritual. According to Tantra, change is natural to the human self, the body-mind.

Change is life.

But also according to Tantra, there is a changeless Self, which never changes, to which the changing self wakes up, discovers, embraces, and is absorbed into through transformative expansion. Thus there is both transformation and no-transformation. Change and no-change.

According to Tantric Yoga the spiritual realm is the one changeless Being, or Brahman. This changeless realm, this Brahman, from which everything originates, from which everything is preserved and from within which everything dies and is destroyed, consists of two polarities: Shiva (Consciousness) and Shakti (Energy).

Shiva is that aspect of Brahman which is changeless, pure, subtle, the deep within, the deep inner world of all manifest beings, the deep inner space of the outer world, of matter, of the atomic world and beyond.

Shiva is pure Consciousness, pure Intelligence, from which even some quantum physicists now believe everything originates. Shiva is that oceanic space within, that cave in the cosmic heart, that which we experience while deep-diving the conscious and subconscious monkey-minds and enter the super-conscious mind of revelation and peace in our meditation.

In other words, in order to be awed by and to experience the inner thrill of Shiva Consciousness, we undergo a shift in awareness, an inner transformation with the help of Shakti energy, with the help of our will power, our emotions, and our sexual energy.

Because Shakti is pure Energy, that which creates, that which binds consciousness into form, into life, creativity and finally into death. By riding the energy of Shakti, the kundalini of transformation and creativity, we embrace Shiva, the Changeless.

“Tantra is the process of transforming one’s latent divinity into Supreme Divinity. A person who, irrespective of caste, creed or religion aspires for [such] spiritual expansion…is a Tantric.” —Anandamurti


 Tantric Yoga teaches us that if this unchanging reality, this Shiva is close to our heart, close to our inner mind in daily contemplation, in daily practice, then it is much easier to accept and welcome and challenge the turbulence of change—the pain of physical and mental suffering that also is an inevitable part of life. Hence, Tantra is to live in the balance of these two realms.

By meditating on that changeless Entity, that deep inner space of the cosmos, we embrace change, we accept change, we thrive on change in the form of Shakti, the Goddess of transformation, creativity, destruction, and death.

By meditating on that Changelss Entity, we associate with the wave of breath that is always connected to the deep spiritual ocean within. And we know, we realize, from experience, when we become less agitated, angry, or irritated, that both Shiva (the changeless) and Shakti (that which always changes), these twin archetypes, are always alive within us.

Contemplate life as infinite, undivided, ever present, ever active, until you realize yourself as one with it.” —Nisargadatta Maharaj

We know that when death strikes, when sickness strikes, that this change is inevitable, that it is Shakti’s nature to change form, to transform, but that Shiva always remains, formless and deeply whole within and beyond.

We know that beyond duality there is nonduality—that beyond both the deep subjective I of consciousness within and the objective yogic energy body that is healthy one day and sick the next, that beyond those polarities of our being there is only Brahman, only Consciousness.

So, what is Tantric yoga, Tantric meditation? To shift our attention toward Shiva, toward Purusha, toward Consciousness, by embracing the energy of Shakti, the energy of Prakriti, the energy of transformation and change.

Shiva in us never changes, but the Shakti in us always undergoes transformation. And it is our choice to use our Shakti energy wisely or to use it destructively.  In other words, we practice yoga, we meditate in order to bypass distraction and destruction and to experience wholeness and unity—the subtle, changeless aspects of our soul, of our spirit.

“Ecstatic devotion to the Divine Mother [Shakti] alternated with serene absorption in the ocean of Absolute Unity[Shiva]. He thus bridged the gulf between the personal and impersonal, the immanent and transcendent aspects of reality.” –Swami Nikhilananda describing the Tantric spirituality of Shri Ramakrishna

And here’s the secret, the beauty of this transformation: by becoming more like the changeless, we can constantly undergo change more gracefully. We embrace change as pain and suffering and joy more peacefully, more ego-lessly.

In other words, we do change, we do transform when we perform spiritual practice. Otherwise why bother to practice or to read and be moved by the great spiritual masterpieces, such as the Gita? Otherwise why do Buddhists practice tonglen, mindfulness, ethics if not to gracefully transform that in us which needs to undergo change in order to be awestruck by and perceive the changeless?

We do the practice, the asanas, the deep breathing, the counting of beads, the mantra repetition, to calm down the choppy winds of the mind, so that we may move into silence, flow toward the breath within the breath, toward the changeless nature of Spirit, toward Shiva, that unfathomable void that never undergoes any change.

We do this practice, sometimes painfully, and sometimes gracefully. But we do it to generate change. And we are transformed by this arousal of Shakti energy in our body and in our mind. In turn, we are changed by it, except that part of us, that inner witness, that Shiva, that great cosmic I, that nondual awareness which never undergoes any change; that quiet breath within our breath, that witnessing I in the quiet hurricane of our life.



About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


27 Responses to “Can We Be Spiritual Without Inner Transformation? A Tantric Perspective.”

  1. yogiclarebear says:

    This is encouraging and informative Ramesh. I am just starting to learn about and practice Tantra Yoga. Thank you for this clear and understandable and affirming article!

  2. Ramesh says:

    Thank you, yogiclearbear, for your enthusiastic response and for embarking upon the path of Tantra! May Shiva/Shakti be with you!

  3. BenRiggs says:

    Hi Ramesh,
    Thanks for another insightful article, which I am sure will prove to be an interesting debate 🙂

    I do not disagree that change takes place on the path, but I would say that we do not control the process of transformation; otherwise, change would be limited to only those ideas or aspirations which were present to begin with. Since enlightenment consists of seeing that which has been misplaced, we cannot consciously control the process, as we are ignorant of what we are looking for. I do however concede that unconsciously there is a primordial desire that is constantly seeking a direct experience of our true nature.

    I would say that change, in this respect, is a natural process of assimilation that takes place as the limited self becomes more and more aware of the deeper dimensions of the true Self. The final revelation being that the small self is, in fact, an example or expression of the larger Self–that the two are of "one substance." Everything is revealed to be an example of "that inner witness, that Shiva, that great cosmic I, that nondual awareness which never undergoes any change; that quiet breath within our breath, that witnessing I in the quiet hurricane of our life." At this point all notions of larger and smaller dissolve, like pouring water into water, which is the dissolution of witnessing consciousness. At this point we are revealed to be neither the wave nor the ocean, but "wetness."

  4. Jocelyne says:

    Beautifully put. I thank you.

  5. Ben_Ralston says:

    Good one brother Ramesh. This moved and inspired me as I hope it will many others.

  6. Ramesh says:

    Ben, your words ring true and move my heart beyond debate and into the realm of cross-religious "wetness." That space where all paths meet, that field Rumi spoke of beyond rightdoings and wrongdoings. That field is where all is "one substance."
    We can control with our will the sitting, the time, the diligence of practice but not its unraveling of truth, because our being's makeup is too mysterious and complex, I agree. The outcome is a mystery as the path is from the limited to the unlimited.
    When I wrote the first few sentences of this piece, I thought about starting a debate, but then the spirit of my recently dead dog Shakti took over. She wrote it, as she was a yogi in a dog's body and broke my heart open with Bhakti love every day. And so it became a piece for sharing and revelation. Which you continued so beautifully above, you my Buddhist buddy!

  7. Ramesh says:

    And praise to the thankful!

  8. Ramesh says:

    Jocelyne, I share your liking for raw food, and I thank you for your thank you!

  9. Ramesh says:

    Ben, yogi of the Eastern European mountain realms, I am likewise moved by your insightful pieces here on Elephant.

  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  11. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  12. Ramesh says:

    Dear Ardha Chandra, and what a beautiful Zen touch you have given to this sharing of spiritual insights. How lovely to be pierced by the arrow of Zen wisdom!

  13. Very inspirational. Tantra resonates with me quite strongly and I have only just begun to explore its vast realms. The concept of duality versus non-duality is so intriguing to me!

  14. Ramesh says:

    jiivadhara, great to read your free-flowing words of insight. Yes, my dog inspired me more than the saints because I discovered Dog is God and God is Dog–that's the highest Tantric truth of the day and, as you say, everything is NO-THING!!

  15. Ramesh says:

    Hannah–welcome to the world of Tantra–which is beyond-words-inspirational!

  16. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you Ramesh!!

  17. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  18. Ramesh says:

    Thank you, Tanya!

  19. Ben_Ralston says:

    oh stop it now 🙂

  20. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Never! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  21. Ramesh says:

    who said this article could not become an important debate!?

  22. BenRiggs says:

    Thank you, Bjonnes. As always, I appreciated your article immensely.

  23. […] Can We Be Spiritual Without Inner Transformation? A Tantric Perspective. […]

  24. "Change is the only constant" and since spirituality (as generally defined) is about "evolving" then from this perspective change is needed. That being said, some spiritualists would say that "needing" anything is not being spiritual. Personally I feel that when we obsess over anything (including being spiritual) that in fact it is not being spiritual. I truly feel that some of the most spiritual people in the world do not even use that phrase. I think it is something that too many people get stuck on and it is the ego finding its way back into a process in where we are trying to dissolve it.

  25. Nick Outlaw says:

    This is great Ramish! You have a talent at teaching and explaining Tantric Yoga.

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