Thursday, May 26, 2011

My First Yoga Teacher

An amazing thing happened today.
A bit of a funky one and then something compelled me to google my high school mentor, my first yoga teacher, the one who first taught me the yoga sutras, taught me meditation, perhaps one who shaped my direction more than any other.
A few years ago I had tried this (googling him) but he eluded me.
His name is Vito Perrone, rather now Father Vito Perrone, the founder of the new order Contemplatives of St Joseph. He lives in San Francisco.
I had a beautiful phone conversation with him (after I found his phone number).
So good to reconnect.
It is beautiful to see the depth of spirituality and authenticity that transcends different religions and traditions. Most Catholics I think don't realize the full depth of the mystical within their own tradition.
He is one of the most amazing men I have ever known.
Here is a blurb from one of the websites I found so you have some background:
New order of monks modeled on St. Joseph founded in archdiocese
January 12th, 2011
By Valerie Schmalz

In the San Francisco Bay Area, orange-robed Buddhist monks are a common sight.

Father Vito J. Perrone wants to make the black diocesan priest garb of the newly founded Contemplatives of St. Joseph at least as ubiquitous. His goal is to bring a deep awareness of Catholic contemplative spirituality to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, draw back Catholics who have left and make new converts.

People are leaving the church and joining other religions or embracing other philosophies because they do not know what the Catholic Church is and what it offers for a relationship with God, he said.

“The goal of the Contemplatives of St. Joseph is to help those who enter as priests and brothers, and those whom they serve in their active ministry to wake up to the contemplative spiritual treasures of the Catholic Church,” said Father Perrone.

Unusually, the Contemplatives of St. Joseph will live a mission that unifies the active and cloistered life. “We’re a monk Monday through Friday and a diocesan priest Saturday and Sunday,” said Father Perrone, with the order’s habit the garb of a diocesan priest.

His new order will “breathe with both lungs of the church,” East and West, taking its guidance from Pope John Paul II’s pastoral letter “Light from the East,” Father Perrone said. Priests will embrace the Latin and Eastern rites of the church and study the early Desert Fathers and Orthodox spirituality.

“By living fully within the Catholic contemplative tradition at this time in church history, as expressed by both the Eastern and Western Church, the priests and brothers’ way of life will slowly but surely help the Archdiocese of San Francisco to grow in contemplative spirituality,” the 53-year-old founder said.

Father Perrone will welcome his first two postulants in the next few weeks to the monastery located on the grounds of Mater Dolorosa Parish in South San Francisco. The monastery was converted from a former convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, said Father Perrone, adding, “St. Joseph wants to be here.”

The priests will focus particularly on developing as spiritual directors and confessors, with Father Perrone envisioning the Contemplatives of St. Joseph priests eventually spending entire weekends hearing confessions and giving retreats. They are modeled on St. Joseph, who was silent and contemplative, yet active – the foster father of Jesus and spouse of Mary, protecting his little family and “standing against evil,” Father Perrone said.

“This is the year for vocations,” said Father Perrone, who has room for 10 aspiring priests in his community.

Archbishop George Niederauer granted permission for the order in the Archdiocese on May 30, 2008, the founding date of the order, Father Perrone said. It was a long process and the order remains in an exploratory stage. If vocations and support come, then the order is the will of God, Father Perrone and Auxiliary Bishop William Justice said.

Bishop Justice called Father Perrone an “essentially holy” man.

For decades, Father Perrone yearned for life as a cloistered monk. A spiritual searcher, he moved from North Dakota to the Bay Area in 1982 for a master’s degree from the Franciscan School of Theology and was ordained a priest in the archdiocese in 2001. He served at Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Cecilia parishes.

Although he spent most vacations on retreat at monasteries around the U.S., Father Perrone said he never heard a “complete yes” from God the way he had heard God call him to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Then, six years ago, a blizzard left Father Perrone alone in the famous St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, an unusual occurrence because the Catholic basilica is a popular tourist destination and always crowded with visitors, Father Perrone said. “The progress of a whole lifetime came to a head,” Father Perrone said. “For an hour and a half I was the only one there…just like that, this insight came to me, ‘start something new.’”

Father Perrone spent a year praying about what the St. Joseph’s Oratory experience meant. He eventually came to the idea of the Contemplatives of St. Joseph and presented it to Archbishop Niederauer. For another year the two prayed about the concept. Then, the archbishop told Father Perrone to test the concept by putting together the logistics, consulting with others and continuing to discern. The process of discernment took another two years, he said. “I had to search my own soul to see if I had what it takes to be the person to get this rolling,” Father Perrone said.

As the only order of contemplative men in the archdiocese, the Contemplatives of St. Joseph will pray for all the bishops, priests and people and hope by their prayer and example to attract vocations to the priesthood of the archdiocese as well as to the order, Father Perrone said.

With a half-million Catholics in the archdiocese, there are many who seek spiritual direction that will now be able to turn to the new order, Father Perrone said. “A holistic presentation of contemplation will resonate with the modern seeker who is ambivalent and hesitant about entering more fully into the life of the church,” he said. “We pray there will be many more converts to the Catholic faith.”

His website, in case you are interested is :

Happy day.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I plan to write more on the nature of desire and dispassion and the yoga sutras very soon but had the thought to write on diksa first.

For the past few days I have been reading David Gordon White's book The Alchemical Body. Interesting read and I may have more to comment on as I get into it further. I find it highly interesting from an historical perspective but it lacks something important. Transmission.

What he speaks of comes from mostly written sources and is definitely done from the academic perspective. All respect towards the monumental task he has accomplished.

However, in regards to my discussion at hand, I quote his words from the introduction:
"Let the reader be forewarned, then that my interpretation of the language of the Hindu alchemical, hathayogic, and tantric traditions bear no stamp of approval from any Indian guru of any sect whatsoever. This is a textual study, one that is based, in any case, on a number of texts for which the all important chain of transmission of oral tradition from teacher to disciple has long since been broken."

I spent two years working with the tantra from a practical perspective before receiving diksa (initiation) from my guru. Those 2 years were very powerful for me but in some ways were like the anthropologist studying a group from the outside. This recalls my actual study of cultural anthropology in college 20 years ago. I often wondered how much more powerful it would be if these scholars who I read so much about, had actually fully entered the traditions they proposed to expound.

I admit that White has done a great service with what he had available and I do find his text interesting. But I have to take much of it with a certain grain of salt as well. Because I know better about these subjects. They are not so easy of access to the non-initiated.

Parasurama in his Kalpa Sutras says in the very first sutra "now we shall expound the diksa (initiation)." Later he states "through tradition and faith there is every fulfillment".

What does this mean? Many deep subjects like the tantra cannot even begin to be properly approached until there is an initiation. There is a timeless, spaceless quality about direct transmission. A download of information, a connection to something totally beyond logic and all rationality that occurs through this transmission.

Scholars so often approach the esoteric subjects like tantra through rationality, left brained thinking, concepts that work in the everyday world that we live in. Real tantra doesn't function like that. Maybe good for history. But even then, real tantra is not linear either.

Since receiving diksa, much has come to me, much. I cannot even begin to explain most of it in words, but if I could it would be like a zip file has been downloaded directly into me. Sometimes it comes so fast I have to shut the door and put all my weight against it to keep it from coming too fast. This isn't like it was before the diksa.

I imagine this is true of any initiatory tradition. If anything, it leaves me wondering more of what truly was going on with the ancient alchemists. In this way it reads to me almost more like good science fiction.

"Through faith and tradition there is every fulfilment."
When one is part of an authentic parampara (guru/disciple tradition), one has access to all those who have gone before. The entire lineage of gurus. This is powerful. This accesses what one might even call "mythic consciousness", consciousness that trancends the time/space boundaries. Dates, history, timelines don't mean anything here.

Anyway, thanks to White for his book, I do find it interesting.
As far as the secrets of the hatha yoga and the tantra, I look for them elsewhere, within the roots of the lineages that have been handed down to me directly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Hi Folks,

this is a post of the last few months written by my guru Sri Amritanandanatha of Devipuram, India. It explains much. I will comment maybe on some things in this article soon.



  1. What is Kaula Achara?
  2. Who are the gurus of right and left hand paths?
  3. Why are Kaula and Vama acharas denounced now as fit only for lowly people by the mainstream elite?
  4. Can you tell us about what most people find objectionable in Kaulachara?
  5. Is this the only problem? What about the rights of animals being killed for the sake of worship?
  6. Then what is objectionable?
  7. What forms of Kaula are practiced in Devipuram?
  8. Can you be more specific and describe the process of puja so that we can decide whether to go for it?
  9. What is the essence of tantra?

Q. What is Kaula Achara?

A: In God’s creation 50% are male and 50% female. Therefore, God/dess who extends in all of creation is called Artha Nari Iswara, female (left half), male(right half). Those who worship the female Goddess (Shakti) follow the left path called Vama achara. Those who worship the male God (Siva) follow the right path called Dakshina Achara. There worship God in female, male and also combined forms follow both right and left hand paths called Kaulachara, Kaula Achara. The word Kaula derives from Kula which means total. Separately as female and male, and also both together in union are worshipped as dieties. Thus Kaula Achara is a mix (misra) of right and left hand paths. It has been acclaimed as the highest natural path (sahaja) since it does not debar any one from practice on the basis of gender : female – male - neutral (rivers, hills, trees, earth, water, fire, air, space, time, health, wealth, etc. which cannot be assigned any gender); Caste: Brahmana Kshatriya Vaishya, Sudra and all others; Age: child, adolescent, youth, middle age and old age; Ashrama: Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaparastha and Sanyasa. It brings all living or imagined living forms into one single roof as being worthy of worship. It offers every one a wide canvas of procedures appropriate to each.

Q. Who are the gurus of right and left hand paths?

A: The Gurus of Dakshinachara are Vedic Dakshinamurthy and also all the Christian and Moslem Rabbis who claim God is Male. Since the plant is according to the seed thrown and not on the soil, they insist that Purusha is dominant for creation, Prakriti or Nature is not. Vedas take lot of pains to prove that the power in mantras offered into sacrificial fires are sufficient to create progeny without the necessity of having to be born through a womb (a-yoni-ja), They thus claim immaculate birth. The Gurus of Kaulachara are Dattatreya and also all the feminist and Pagan Teachers who worship Females, in benign and malignant paths. They claim sex is as necesssary for manifestation at the cosmic level as it is for normal procreation. As below, so above, they believe. Therefore, they consider Siva and Shakti as the divine equivalents of phallus and womb. Phallus is described as an infinite pillar of light. Its receptacle is the womb Kalash, the vessel of immortality. The driving force behind all creation is like the pleasure of sex, called Ananda.

Q. Why are Kaula and Vama acharas denounced now as fit only for lowly people by the mainstream elite?

A: Any achara connects people to Powers of God, both benign and malevolent. We can use malevolent energies also to heal people and eliminate disease; it is a good use of bad energy. But power in the hands of immature can destroy. So the teachers are wary of passing on the means to get powers to everyone. They test the worthiness of a pupil before giving them the procedures to connect to powers. It is a necessary precaution which cannot be objected to.

Vamachara and Kaulachara control the excess sexual energy present in living persons to visualise, nourish and manifest any creative desire. This path is much faster than the right path. Practiced under the proper direction of a competent and mature Guru, left path can lead to dramatic improvement in the quality of life in the society for everyone. However, if the speed at which the powers to manifest is more than that for gaining maturity to use the powers wisely, much harm can be done to society by immature practitioners. Unfortunately many such cases have indeed been there. Media reaching out to every home and molding public opinion, knowing that sensation sells, focus on such issues. Instead of saying a glass is half empty ( focus on negative aspect, smallness) why should we not assert that it is half full (focus on positive fullness). If we focus on what can be done to correct the system, rather than looking at what is bad about the system what can’t be achieved?

The intellectual elite fought against the Vama and Kaula methods saying that they are fit only for low caste people with small worldly desires (kshudra = small). Over time, it has become a fad to criticize and throw mud at all practitioners of Vama and Kaula sects. Practitioners of right path aggressively promoted audio visual media which is ever willing to capitalize on sensational news, portraying only the worst aspects of Kaula and Vama methods. The attack was not only on Hindus. The culture of Bharat (=Interest in light) provides a true balance of Male and Female deities. It says worship God as woman: mother, daughter, sister, friend, lover, and prostitute; they are all mothers, women. The Christian fundamentalists hunted and burnt at stakes the so called witches, the wicked women. Actually the word wicked comes from wicca, which means no harm to any one. It is similar to vicche, which means liberation. The Wiccans meet once a week to do their rituals honoring the seasons. They wick, so others called them wicked. Phoenicians had temples for the Goddess of pleasure the clitoris and Hindus worship Rati, the Goddess of carnal pleasures. Prostitutes were considered sacred both in west as well as east, because they served Deities (Deva Dasis) and taught men the arts of making love. In the golden age of tantra, all major temples in India were richly adorned by sculptures of mithuna practiced in temple precincts. It was a country wide and world wide fertility culture which offered sex to please the deities controlling the life and food sustaining energies. Sacredness of sex was mainstream world wide once, although it is much suppressed now by male dominated religions. If God is female, worship of woman is worship of God. This is totally unacceptable to Male God rightists.

Q: Can you tell us about what most people find objectionable in Kaulachara?

A: The use of 5 “M” s in worship. They all begin with the letter M in Sanskrit, so they are called 5 “M”s, or Pancha Makaras. These are the ingredients used in Kula pujas. But it is important to realize that their literal meanings are practiced by non-vegetarian Kaulas, and hidden meanings are practiced by vegetarian Kaulas.

The 5 Ms are 1. Madya, 2. Matsya 3. Mamsa, 4. Mudra and 5. Mithuna. Their literal and hidden meanings are given in table below.

Makara Common Hidden

1. Madya Liquor Intoxicated state of Bhakti, knowing nothing but Goddess.
2. Matsya Fish Focus on in breath, which moves like a fish in waters of life.
3. Mamsa Meat Tongue on uvula, a piece of hanging flesh from upper palette.
4. Mudra Woman Partner Nature is the woman partner, who brings pleasure and pain.
5. Maithuna Coitus Every contact with your own nature inside, or world is coitus.

Most people in the world enjoy liquor for the intoxication it gives. And most eat fish and meat; they constitute more than 95% of people. Every person enjoys sex intimacy either in marriage, dating or in live-in relationships. Therefore all these 5 Ms are commonly done by all people. What is not main-stream however is thinking that such common activities such as drinking and sex also have a spiritual dimension. It comes by combining common meanings with hidden meanings. The attitude of most people is: drinking liquor and enjoying sex is right; but using them for worship, NO NO! This is the problem.

Q: Is this the only problem? What about the rights of animals being killed for the sake of worship?

A: Aren’t animals killed for eating meat and fish? What is wrong if they are worshipped first, then told that they will get a better life and then sacrificed in a ritual to get power? Don’t we eat meat to get power for our body? Useless killing has to be objected to.

Q: Then what is objectionable?

A: The use of bodily secretions in rituals. Everybody uses milk and honey to bathe the icons of power: of desire, nourishment or manifestation. Use of menstrual blood and semen is objected to by most people in rituals. Why? Let me explain. Milk is blood, modified by addition of calcium, which happens automatically in lactating mothers. .So, milk and blood are same, obtained without injury to animals. All we eat comes from organic living matter only; the seeds of paddy, wheat, nuts, etc. Semen is just human seed. Both menstrual flow and semen are living, life giving substances which can be used to give life here, or offered to fire to fulfill our desires to gain control of environment. This is the precise part which is abhorred by people. Notice that menstrual blood and semen are obtained with pleasure instead of pain; so they promote peace loving good energies. In fact even cow’s urine and excreta along with milk, butter and ghee are used in Vedic rituals, since the mother goddess Lakshmi is supposed to be near the genital and excretory organs of the holy cow. Vedas and Tantras are very similar. They overlap considerably in using life energy positively and abhor needless violence. The main goals are Truth = Satyam, and Ahimsa = non-violence, Asteyam = not coveting other’s properties.

The harmless Kaulas practice non-violence to the extent possible. If you are a vegetarian, be so, it is good. If you are not a vegetarian, try to minimize harm by dedicating your life and other lives to Goddess. Do not suppress desires. After all, they are god’s desires. Desires are also spiritual. This is the path of Kaulas.

Moksha means that it is not having a birth at all. But since we are born already, we can only expect avoidance of rebirth. It can be achieved in three ways. 1. By offering our seed into fire every time it is produced. This is Purna Ahuti, offering of self in seed form not to be reborn, but to fructify our desires. It is both a Vedic and Kaula practice. 2. Not ejaculating the seed even during coitus. It is hard, but can be learned with the right attitude and with the help of a learned partner. This is called taking the seed upwards, Urdhva retas. The importance is to play and enjoy with partners, Rasa-lila, without inhibitions, relaxing into a tender love rather than being driven by lust. This is Bhakti, surrender of body, mind and soul to the partners all of whom are none other than a Krishnas-Gopis or Shivas-Shaktiss. Of a collection of people. The concept of chakra or mandala arises from here; we manifest a higher form of life through harmonious, playful activities. This is puja of love, beauty and harmony, the goddess Tripura Sundari . This is a true Kaula practice, which focuses on foreplay much more than coitus. 3. The third way is not to engage in sex or thinking about it, avoid company of all opposite partners and thus not beget children. This is followed by Sanyasis. The inhibition and negative attitude to pleasure tend to promote anger and ego. The first is the easiest; the second and third ways are both difficult, and require long practice.

Q: What forms of Kaula are practiced in Devipuram?

A: We do practice benign aspects and don’t go anywhere near malevolent aspects.

Q: Can you be more specific and describe the process of puja so that we can decide whether to go for it?

A: We do worship to consenting adult females and males as we do for icons of Goddess or God following the sacred Sri Vidya tradition of Tripura Sundari. The ritual called Kalavahana or Shaktipat goes like this.

First we touch the feet of the recipient and seek permission to do the puja by touching all parts of body to invoke divine life into them. After getting it, we touch all parts of the body of the body of receiver (female or male) placing the 50 beeja aksharas in all spiritual chakras from Muladhara to Sahasrara.

Then Fire and its 10 powers are invoked in the genital area, 12 of Sun around the chest area, 16 of Moon around the neck.

Then again 10 powers of creation (Brahma) are invoked in the womb because creation takes place there, 10 powers of pleasure which promotes life (Vishnu) in the external genital, 10 of life without body (Rudra) around waist, 4 of love and bondage (Iswara) in the chest, and 16 powers of communication across boundaries of space (Sadasiva), 3 of time past, present and future (Tripura).

So far the attempt is to raise the level of awareness to the crown through prayers. The awareness energy having gone up to the crown, the descent of grace is started from 2 feet of Guru at the crown, and the never ending flow of time through present. The grace of enduring will (Sarasvati), its nourishment and protection (Lakshmi), and fulfillment through manifestation in womb (Durga), and a desire for not having a rebirth into a low form of life from the feet. Then we give them a ritual head bath with mantras, called Abhishek. This is very empowering and many people go into trance like state right then, which is an indication of empowerment taking place. Then the initiatory mantras are given. The recipient is worshipped with flowers and kumkum concluding the ritual. The entire puja can be and is done to clothed recipients publicly at Devipuram. If the recipients desire it, exactly the same process can be done in their homes also.

All our pujas are satvic, which empower and hurt none. This is how Kaula pujas are done to willing and consenting adults at Devipuram. Priests never compel any one to do any particular puja.

Suvasini (adult married woman), Kumari( Virgin adult girl above 18 years) and Dampati (Couple or partners in a live-in relationship) pujas are an essential part of Goddess worship. Anga pujas are necessary to invoke all powers in a balanced way. The powers invoked are 1. Iccha ( stable will ), 2. Jnana ( expanding knowledge to achieve it ) and 3. Kriya ( manifesting the will ). Only satvic pujas are offered to public seeking sacred traditions of Sri Vidya.

Q: What is the essence of tantra? I know it is a vast subject, but a short and sweet answer will do.

A: Everyone wants happiness. Two things make us unhappy: Not getting what we Desire, and getting what we Fear. If our desire is fake, we need to be protected from manifesting it.
The conventional spiritual way is to transcend desires and fears and thereby reduce the chances of unhappiness. And through the process of transcending one is supposed to get to a state of unconditional happiness (bliss) which comes through the realization that we ARE bliss and there is no need to seek it.
The tantric way, on the other hand, is to get the power to get what we desire and be protected from what we fear. The tantric power is not some kind of magic that we evoke with mantras. It comes through a process of serious spiritual saadhana that also ultimately leads to the realization of our true powerful nature.
However desire is the driving force for sadhana and not something to be shunned or overcome.
In Tantric sadhana we uninhibitedly go to Devi with our desires, seek her help with mantras and poojas - in this process many things happen. Often the desires get fulfilled which makes our love for Devi grow. Sometimes they don't get fulfilled, but as we go on with the sadhana we realise that they are "fake" desires, camouflages for real deeper desires, and then as we gain clarity into our real desires they get fulfilled. Meanwhile the tantric rituals and mantras keep instilling into us the ultimate truth of who we really are - Devi herself.
Without sadhana desire is truly the cause of all suffering. Without the light of DevI, we blindly grope around to fulfill our desires, hurt others and get hurt by others. We get so clouded by our powerlessness and frustrations that we forget our real desires and substitute them with easy fakes, We feel guilty about our desires and try to hide them even from ourselves.
Tantra brings desires out of darkness into God's light and fufills them thereby fulfilling the purpose of our life in this form.
Q: Give us a message to live by.
A: Do as you like. Minimize hurt.
Q: Thank you for answering questions patiently. We follow what we desire to do. In that process, we will minimize hurt and get connected to the Powers..

Love Guruji

Shambhavi Mudra

I thought I would share some thoughts on the most profound mudra of the yoga - the Shambhavi Mudra.

Many modern texts turn this mudra into third eye drishti/gazing of one form or another.
I don't follow these interpretations.

I discovered this mudra almost by accident many years ago. After studying the words in Hathapradipika and others I found confirmation.

I realized that after resting in the natural state, certain things were occuring in the body. I then decided to examine whether or not I could induce the natural state by first inducing these gestures or movements. Lo and behold, success....

The bodily mudras of hathayoga are gestures, made internally to induce movement towards our natural state. The Shaivite texts confirm that the highest level of mudra involves the deepest layer of who we are. So there is a range, a continuum through which mudra works. It may start out in one way and completely unfold into a very deep expression. It is important to understand this as mudra is not fixed.

For example on the most gross level, Khecari Mudra involves processes of the tongue, moving into the passage of "space", which is in the cavity of the throat behind the soft palate. However on the most profound level, it involves moving into space itself. The space of Self, the space of Consciousness. Both levels of understanding are correct. We have to be careful though as we may tend to emphasize one aspect and not understand the continuum of which this mudra takes place.

As this is a discussion on Shambhavi mudra lets focus now on that one.

To correctly perform Shambhavi mudra, open the eyes. Next see. In the beginning this involves focussing the eyes. The attention should not be on what you are looking at but rather how you are looking. In other words, pay attention to the focussing itself. It is like moving the focuser on an old school camera in either direction to bring the picture into the state of sharpest clarity.

In the act of focussing, the eyes may be either lazy or tense. A different adjustment is required either way. If they are lazy you may have to actually tense up the face into different positions to get the eyes to "come alive". If they are tense, you have to relax.

It is at this point that you may notice that the physical tension or laziness is actually affecting the eye's ability to see. It is oftentimes felt around the mid-brow region or even farther back in the body. You have to really pay attention to the release or energizing of this, paying strong attention to the field of bodily sensation in how it relates to the visual field. Relaxing the frontal brain region helps to open up the focus. If the eye is lazy you may have to breath faster or raise the brows or even "sqwunch" the face.

The more we can sink into that bodily sensation the more we enter what Patanjali calls the "instrumental layer". This is the layer of sensation, raw perception prior to the conceptual experience that Patanjali calls the "objective layer". In the instrumental layer we focus on pure sensation in itself.

So in Shambhavi mudra we focus on focussing. We focus on seeing. As the seeing becomes clear, we notice simultaneously the mind/thoughts disappear. Doubt this? Try thinking of your favorite movie simultaneously while focussing the eyes. Can you do it? When the "mind's eye" sees, the eyes themselves don't. The reverse is true.

So thought starts to come to a standstill. Pay attention at this time to the merging of the tactile/sensory layer of the body to the seeing. Notice that as clarity comes to the focussing of the eyes, clarity also comes to the "focussing" of the body. You may notice a certain "energetic retreat" into the central column. Asana becomes much easier, effortless. Everything becomes more effortless.

What do we then pay attention to? The luminosity itself. Sink into the luminosity. The background.

Shambhavi mudra thus introduces you to the natural state. This powerful mudra can be employed at any time, during almost any activity.

As a side note this mudra will also improve your eyesight. One student reported driving home after class and didn't notice till she got home (some distance travelled) that she had forgotten to put her glasses on... Many others have stated improvements in eyesight as well as reduction of facial and bodily tension. Nice side effects.

One last note. Why is this mudra so often associated with the eyebrow center or the ajna cakra? Because its practice clears this region of the body. You will feel this in a very palpable way if you practice this regularly. Unfortunately this has given rise to derivative practices such as eyebrow gazing which focus more on the objective layer. This will take much longer to achieve success with than the more inner instrumental layer practice which I am describing.

Please check out my youtube video for a video instructional on Shambhavi mudra.


On the Natural State

The following is some words I wrote to students very recently on the nature of meditation. I wrote this in response to some common misconceptions I have come across with various students.

Hi everyone,

After our discussion today in class and then further discussion after class I realized that there are still some misconceptions out there about the nature of meditation.

One common misconception is that when we look at states of mind that are pre-thought we sometimes might think that we will be in a state of "nothingness". This blank state or nothing state can actually arise when we force all thoughts to a standstill and don't allow anything in, even clarity. This is not what we are seeking.

Meditation is not about destroying thought. Thought cannot be destroyed, only transformed. It is a fundamental law both of science as well as ancient Samkhya philosophy that nothing is created or destroyed. Understanding that we have to recognize that thought is like a wave returning to its basis: water.

But what is the basis of thought? What is the so called ground state? The ground state is what some call the Self, some call Emptiness, some call Consciousness, or Awareness Itself.

Regardless of what we call it, it is important during the process of meditation to recognize the ground state. What we could call the "natural state".

I like to think of it in similar terms to electrons naturally wanting to find their rest orbits within atoms. But oftentimes, the electrons get bumped up or excited and then the atoms live within an excited or heightened state, sometimes in configurations that are not as stable.

In the same way thought is like a heightened or excited state of consciousness in which the natural state is lost, awareness in effect "contracting around itself".

How do we recognize the natural state?

In the yoga sutras they tell us to first bring the mental state as a whole to a state of sattva, a place of clarity. Given that the hatha texts also tell us the intimate relationship of breath/energy (prana) and mind, we can infer that the energy of the bodily system as a whole should ideally be more sattvic or clear in nature. Diet, sleep, relationships, and taking care of ourselves on all levels influence the clear nature of the body. The mind is then much more prepared to rest.

Given the adjustment to external factors, we then relax. Relax on a whole level. It helps to learn to "feel" thoughts rather than "think" them. What does thought "feel" like on a deep bodily level? Learning to access thought through the body takes us to what Patanjali calls the instrumental level. We are no longer drawn into thought content but rather feel it as what it is : energy. Then, doing so we relax. We relax the breath. We let the breath even stop for some time.

Relaxing is not enough though. We then need to recognize very clearly and presently what IS present. What is it that reveals the presence or absence of thought? This is the background. The background or basis has a certain "flavor". It is one. It is present. It is clear. It is awareness. It is luminous. The more we "habituate" to the background, the more it welcomes us. This is the most important stage.

So to recap:

Get clear through practice (yoga, exercise, painting, whatever...), relax, recognize the basis.

Piece of cake.

One other word. The natural state requires nothing, so even these actions are in reality not necessary, but from the perspective of the heightened or excited state of thought which we live in most of our lives, we are not familiar with it and it takes some practice to in effect "reset ourselves".

Hope this is helpful.

Phenomenal Luminosity

Phenomenal Luminosity will be a forum for my writings on yoga and tantra and all wonders of this manifest existence.

Luminosity is wondrous, quite phenomenal.
Phenomena is nothing but luminosity.
How wondrous.


Salutations to the nectar of Bliss, Amritananda.

Salutations to Mahaganapati and his power Siddhalaxmi.

May the sweet words of Matangi come forth from sky like mind.

May the tusks of the boar faced one tear through doubt and fear.

Salutations to the Queen on the lion throne,
She who wears the sun and moon as mere ornaments hanging from her ears.