Tag Archives: sexual yoga

Dharma Energy

Presented to the members of the Riverview Dharma Centre on Saturday, April 29, 2017

PART I

The Philosophical Idea of Energy

In the Western philosophical tradition “energy” was originally an Aristotelian term denoting “actuality” or “existence in actuality.” More broadly, energy is defined in the physical sciences as the ability to do work. Energy exists in two states, kinetic and potential, both of which are real. Thus, energy is one of the universals of science, inherent in all physical systems. In general, it refers to activity or power of action.

In Pali, the English word “energy” is often used to translate viriya, defined by Tamilcube as “vigour, energy, effort, strength.” This word appears frequently all through the Pali Canon, along with such close synonyms as “power,” “strength,” “effectiveness” (upaya), “fire” (teja), “zest,” “ardor,” etc. (see Appendix). According to PED, it is derived from vira, cognate with Latin vir, virtus, “virtue,” from Vedic Sanskrit, meaning, “man, hero, chief,” as well as “people, humanity,” much like the English word “man.” Similarly, the Pali vira means “manly, mighty, heroic; a hero,” even “divine.” The Majjhima commentary states that the higher stages of arhantship are produced by “manly strength.” Viriya refers to “the state of a strong man,” i.e., vigour, energy, effort, exertion. In Sanskrit, it is virya,seminal energy, strength, power,” also translated as “courageous engagement” by Peter Harvey in his Introduction to Buddhism. The Tao Te Ching has a similar concept, Te, the complement of Tao, often translated into English as “virtue,” which comes from the same Indo-European root as vira, and implies the same connotation of manliness that underlies the classical conception of virtue. Sometimes it is translated as “character.”

The Indian View of Male Sexuality

Already it is clear from the foregoing that there is a special and specific association between the concept of virtue and male sexual energy, also called bindu in Indian literature (the Sanskrit word bindu also occurs in the Pali, where it means a ‘drop, spot, or cipher’; cf. bija and oja). Male sexuality played a significant role in early Buddhism in that it became the focus of monasticism, enshrined in the first training rule of the Vinaya, the prohibition of sexual intercourse. [1]

In his study of images of masculinity, sex, and the body in Indian Buddhism, A Bull of a Man (2009), author John Powers discusses the traditional Indian view of male sexuality. Powers makes it clear that in Indian tradition, including Buddhism, sexual and spiritual energy are cognate concepts. Thus, the Buddha is simultaneously a supreme spiritual master and a virile ksatriya warrior, handsome, with large quantities of semen and saliva and strong sexual desire. Therefore, the prohibition of sexual intercourse is not a prohibition of sexuality as such but rather of its profanation. Many of the Buddhist monastics are represented as extremely virile and attractive young men (the Pali Canon mentions young men frequently, implying that young men were particularly attracted to the Buddhadharma) who were eagerly sought after by women in charnel grounds and elsewhere (Powers, Bull of a Man, p. 277 n. 13). The Buddha himself is represented as so handsome and charismatic that women were overcome by desire or actually fainted in his presence. Sariputta was initially attracted to the Buddhasangha by the “surpassing beauty” of Upasena, a Buddhist monk (ibid, p. 154). Sariputta subsequently became the “monastic partner” of Maudgalyayana, who were inseparable for the rest of their lives, dying two weeks apart.[2] Sariputta became renowned as the monk foremost in wisdom, and Maudgalyayana as the monk foremost in psychic powers.

Powers writes,

In ancient India, semen was associated with the energy of life, and men who recklessly shed their seed were said to become physically diminished.[3] Excessive ejaculation leads to various morbidities and premature death. By contrast, the heroic ascetic who retains his seed is the most manly and virile of men and enjoys robust health, tremendous physical energy, and mental alertness, and he also develops supernatural powers (siddhi). Those who practice celibacy and other acts of austerity accumulate an energy called tapas, which literally means ‘heat.’ Sages who remain chaste for long periods and who combine this with advanced levels of meditation can even challenge the gods in terms of power and wisdom. (ibid, p. 79)

Nanamoli and Bodhi’s translation of the Majjhima Nikaya makes this association with virility clear: “For a faithful disciple who is intent in fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation it is proper that he conduct himself thus: ‘Willingly, let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up on my body, but my energy shall not be realized as long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength, manly energy, and manly persistence” (MN 70:27; cf. SN 12:22, 21:3, AN II:5(5)).[5] These are the same words used in the vow that the Bodhisattva took at the foot of the Bodhi tree prior to his Enlightenment (Ja 171, 24-27).

As with the prohibition of eating after noon, which was originally an Ayurvedic practice to optimize health, based on the waxing of the agni, the digestive fire, the Buddhist prohibition of sexual intercourse has complex cultural resonances. In traditional Indian belief, as in the Hellenic view, the female principle is identified with the somatic, physical polarity of existence, whereas the male is identified with the psychic, spiritual polarity, in a vertical hierarchy of value. Powers writes, “Buddhists, like other religious groups of the time, viewed the male body as naturally more conducive to self-control than the female body was. Females are depicted as constantly oozing fluids and as prone to emotional instability, while men are physically stronger, more controlled, and less subject to the vagaries of emotion” (ibid, p. 110). Thus, male celibacy (or seminal retention) is not actually anti-sexual, but anti-somatic. The Vinaya amply refutes the notion that monastics were actually asexual. Monastics must be celibate, but they must also be sexually unimpaired (ibid, pp. 84, 85). We find this doctrine, as well as its associated problems and difficulties, in Catholicism and Mormonism too. Thus, “the sage becomes more potent and more desirable as a result of avoiding sex” (ibid, p. 77). In order to understand the Buddhist view we must avoid projecting Judaeo-Christian notions of shame and guilt onto Buddhism, the sexual frankness of the original writings of which have offended more than one translator. By his own admission, the Buddha indulged extensively in sexual intercourse while a bodhisattva in his final rebirth. According to the accepted account, the Buddha engaged in sexual intercourse right up until his 29th year, merely six years before his Enlightenment. Powers explicitly recognizes “more and better sex” as a goal of spiritual practice (ibid, p. 99).

In the myth of Chandra, the god of the moon, which is also a symbol of dharma in Buddhism and of soma in Hinduism, is associated with the uposatha observance. Soma, the ritual beverage of the Vedic sacrifice, and the drink of the gods, is also associated with semen. The consumption of soma confers immortality and is said to be able to restore vitality lost due to excessive sexual activity. Its silver-white colour identifies it as a lunar substance (ibid, p. 79). Semen was also regarded as medicinal. Says Powers, “Indian medical lore holds that semen is produced by a process of refinement of the elements comprising food and that semen pervades the tissues of the entire body. … It is also ‘a formative principle in all bodies in the universe.’ … Semen is the source of physical vitality (in some sources menstrual blood is the female equivalent). Buddhaghosa differentiates among various types of semen and rates their relative quality” (ibid, p. 128). Powers writes that “men who practice self-control can retain their semen and thus acquire power” (ibid, p. 279 n. 62). These ideas are developed in the last great Buddhist tantra, the Kalachakra, circa 966 CE, but are clearly archaic in origin.

The Concept of Energy in the Pali Canon

Energy, in its three phases of arousal, endeavour, and exertion (SN 46:2(2)(ii)), is referred to frequently all through the Pali Canon in stock lists, including the Four Bases of Power, the Five Faculties or Powers, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Eight Causes and Conditions of Wisdom, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the Ten Perfections (see Fundamental View). The Buddha says that he does not know of anything that so causes unarisen wholesome qualities to arise and arisen unwholesome qualities to decline as energy (AN I:61(1)). The Buddha says that the enlightenment factor of energy is both physical and mental (SN 46:52(2).ii). It is “nourished” by frequent and careful attention to the elements of arousal, endeavour, and exertion (SN 46:2(2).ii). Bodhi comments that these three elements refer to the initial and intermediate phases of the development of energy, culminating in “full intensity.” The phallic connotation is obvious. The Buddha says that energy is aroused, developed, and fulfilled by faith (SN 48:50(10) and discriminating the dharma with wisdom (SN 46:3(3), 54:13(3).ii), leading to mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, faith, and rapture (SN 48:50(10). Alternatively, he warns that arousing energy “in a badly expounded Dhamma and discipline dwells in suffering” (AN I:324(9)). Energy is aroused “for the attainment of the as-yet-unattained, for the achievement of the as-yet-unachieved, for the realization of the as-yet-unrealized” (AN IV:80(10)).

Energy appears in the Suttavibhanga as the first cause leading to jhana, in the practice referred to throughout the Vinaya by the stock phrase “putting forth (arousing) energy.”

In the Anguttara Nikaya, we encounter “the power of energy” as a synonym for the arousal of energy:

One generates desire to abandon those qualities that are unwholesome and reckoned as unwholesome; those that are blamable and reckoned as blamable; those that are dark and reckoned as dark; those that should not be cultivated and are reckoned as not to be cultivated; those that are unworthy of the noble ones and reckoned as unworthy of the noble ones. One makes an effort, arouses energy, applies one’s mind, and strives for this. One generates desire to obtain all those qualities that are wholesome and reckoned as wholesome; those that are blameless and reckoned as blameless; those that are bright and reckoned as bright; those that should be cultivated and are reckoned as to be cultivated; those that are worthy of the noble ones and reckoned as worthy of the noble ones. One who makes an effort, arouses energy, applies one’s mind, and strives for this. This is called the power of energy.

Elsewhere, “putting forth energy” appears as the culmination of a dharma talk. In the Mahavagga we have something approximating to an instruction in “putting forth energy,” in the form of the story of Sona Kolivisa, who received ordination and stayed in the Cool Grove. Through this story, we also begin to understand the intensity of the energy that is “aroused” by the Buddha and his followers. While he was pacing up and down, i.e., practising walking meditation, Sona’s body put out so much energy that “his feet broke.” As a result, the pathway became covered with blood. Presumably, this means that he cut his feet from so much walking barefoot. Sona began to consider returning to the life of a householder. The Buddha came, saw the blood and asked the monastics about it. Rather than condoning such extreme effort, the Buddha went to Sona, and through the famous metaphor of the lute, he taught Sona how to regulate his psychosomatic energy.

 What do you think about this, Sona? Were you clever at the lute’s stringed music as when formerly you were a householder? When the strings of your lute were too taught, was your lute at that time tuneful and fit for playing? When the strings of your lute were too slack, was your lute at that time tuneful and fit for playing? When the strings of your lute were neither too taught nor too slack, but were keyed to an even pitch was your lute at that time tuneful and fit for playing? Even so, Sona, does too much output of energy conduce to restlessness, does too feeble energy conduce to slothfulness. Therefore do you, Sona, determine upon evenness in energy and pierce the evenness of the faculties and reflect upon it.

Energy that is too slack or too lax leads to lassitude or laziness, whereas energy that is too tense or forceful leads to restlessness. Thus, the Buddha teaches the middle way between extremes, energetic balance, and evenness of the spiritual faculties as a basis for concentration. Because of the practice of “evenness in energy” Sona, “pierced the evenness of the faculties” [?], realized the supreme goal of the path by direct knowledge,  and achieved nirvana (see also SN 51:20(10)(ii), AN VI:55(1)).

lgshivasealTeja means ‘heat, radiance, glory, power,’ and is thus a near synonym of viriya. In the Majjhima Nikaya (43:22), “heat” and vitality are equated, standing in the same relationship to each other as radiance to flame. The “condition of heat” (tejodhatu) is referred to all through the Vinaya as an advanced spiritual attainment. This attainment is attributed to two monastics, Dabba the Mallian and Sagata, who was the Buddha’s personal attendant (thus dating the story to the first twenty years of the Buddha’s career, before Ananda became his personal attendant) and “chief of those good at the heat condition.” The story of Sagata is of particular interest because it has him using his “heat condition” to repel the “heat” of a hostile naga. It is repeated in somewhat expanded form of the Buddha himself, where he is called Angirasa (‘the Resplendent One’). One suspects that the association of the teja with a serpent is not arbitrary, since the Indian tradition describes a serpent-power (kundalini, ‘coiled one’) that is more than analogous to the concept of psychic heat, which also figures prominently in the Tibetan tradition. Kundalini awakening is a real physical syndrome that has been described by Dr. Lee Sannella in his book, The Kundalini Experience. If one looks closely at the oldest Indian representation of a cross-legged yogi, the so-called Pashupati seal of Indus Valley Civilization (c 2350-2000 BCE), the figure clearly exhibits an erect phallus! Here we begin to see clearly that the Buddhist concept of “energy” has some unusual characteristics and that any identification with “vigour” or similar such abstractions is simplistic at best. The Jungian notion of libido may be very close to the Buddhist conception. In the story of the naga serpent, the equation of heat and psychic power is explicit: “Truly the great recluse is of great psychic power, of great majesty, in that he can master by heat the heat of the fierce serpent king who has psychic power and is a terribly venomous snake.” The description suggests the visionary phenomena of psychedelic experience: “Then at the end of that night the serpent’s flames became extinguished but the multicoloured flames of him of psychic power remained, and multicoloured flames, dark green, then red, crimson, yellow and crystal-coloured were on Angirasa’s body.”

The supreme example of the power of energy appears in the Book of the Great Decease (Mahaparinibbana). The Buddha, knowing that his time was near, took Ananda to Capala Shrine (MN 16:3.1) and gave him a teaching called the Four Roads to Power (iddhipada). This practice is associated with the brahma Sanat Kumara (Pali Sanankumar). The Four Roads to Power involve the concentration of intention, energy, consciousness, and investigation by an effort of will (MN 18.22, 26:28). The Buddha tells Ananda that by this practice, the Buddha might live out “his age,” the meaning of which is ambiguous but may refer to the human lifespan of a hundred years or a historical epoch of millions of years, but Ananda, always a bit slow despite his phenomenal memory, did not beg the Buddha to live on before the Buddha declares his intention to die in three months. Too late, Ananda asks the Buddha to live on after he renounces the “force of life” (MN 16:3.1, 3.38), but a Buddha’s word is absolute and cannot be reversed. “Conscious dying” is of course a feature of Tibetan Lamaism and is widely attested.

MN 16:26 identifies five shackles in the heart: sensual pleasures, body, form, eating and sleeping, and theism. When these are overcome, the monastic develops the basis for spiritual power consisting of concentration due to zeal, energy, purity of mind, investigation, and enthusiasm.

The Buddha says that the “energy enlightenment factor” is aroused in one who develops the “investigation of states” enlightenment factor, which arises as result of mindfulness of the body, feelings, mind and mind objects (the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) (MN 118:32). From this aroused energy, “unworldly rapture” arises. Rapture develops into tranquility. Tranquility develops concentration. Concentration develops equanimity.

Right Effort, the sixth stage of the Noble Eightfold Path, is divided into the Four Right Exertions: restraint, abandonment, cultivation, preservation,[4] in which the faculty of energy is seen (SN 48:8(8)), associated with strength, firmness, and not shirking (9((9)). According to the Devatasamyutta, energy clears the noble path by dispelling drowsinesss, lethargy, laziness, discontent, and torpor. Bodhi comments that ”The clearing of the path comes about when one expels the mental corruptions by means of the path itself, with the energy (viriya) conascent with the path.” The Sagathavagga says that energy overcomes suffering and associates it with initiative, toil, struggle, and striving “for the attainment of the as-yet-unattained, for the achievement of the as-yet- unachieved, for the realization of the as-yet-unrealized.” The Nidanavagga alludes to the possibility of using “spiritual power” or energy to teleport [sic] from one distant location to another.

In the Mahavagga the Buddha reveals a practice that he developed as a Bodhisattva, prior to his enlightenment, which he calls the Four Bases of Spiritual Power:

It occurred to me: ‘Here, a bhikkhu develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to [desire, energy, mind, and investigation] and volitional formations of striving, thinking: ‘Thus my [desire, energy, mind, and investigation] will be neither too slack nor too tense [recalling the metaphor of the lute that we have discussed]; and it will be neither constricted internally nor distracted externally.’ And he dwells perceiving after and before: ‘As before, so after; as after, so before; as below, so above; as above, so below; as by day, so at night; as at night, so by day.’ Thus, with a mind that is open and unenveloped, he develops the mind imbued with luminosity. (SN 51:11(1))

Internal constriction refers to sloth and torpor, whereas external distraction refers to disturbance because of “the five cords of sensual pleasure,” i.e., pleasure in the objects of the five physical senses. Bodhi suggests that the phrase “’as before, so after as after, so before’ means maintaining consistency in the practice of meditation.” According to the text, “as below, so above; as above, so below” refers to the analysis of the body as consisting of numerous taints: “There are in this body head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of the stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, seat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, fluid of the joints, urine” (SN 51:20(10).i). “As by day, so at night; as at night, so by day” means that the practice is practised all the time. According to the commentary, “developing the mind imbued with luminosity” means that one perceives an internal mental or psychic illumination with the same intensity and vividness that one perceives the light of the sun. Thus, “enlightenment” is not a metaphor but a real psychosomatic experience.

Energy is achieved by cultivating indefatigability on striving: “Willingly, let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up in my body, but I will not relax my energy so long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength, energy, and exertion” (AN II: 5(5)).[5]

The Buddha repeats this instruction for desire, energy, mind, and investigation. This is of course an elaboration of the Four Roads to Power that we encountered in the Majjhima Nikaya. This exercise leads directly to the development of “the various kinds of spiritual power,” referring to siddhis, including self-multiplication; invisibility; the ability to pass through matter; weightlessness; levitation; the ability to explore other worlds, both astronomical and transcendent; clairaudience; telepathy; memory of past lives; and direct clairvoyant perception of karmic causality. This stock list of spiritual powers is a recurrence of a proto-tantric thread that runs all through the Pali Canon and became highly developed in Vajrayana Buddhism, especially in Tibet, and is also experienced, as I have discussed before, in the context of the UFO phenomenon and psychedelic states of consciousness. The references to “as before, so after; as after, so before” etc. and to “a mind that is open and unenveloped” suggests the practice of the expansion of consciousness that one finds in the famous metta meditation. Finally, the Buddha says that the ultimate fruit of the practice of the Four Roads to Power is the destruction of the taints, resulting in the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, realized by and for oneself with direct knowledge or gnosis. Once again, the Pali Canon makes it clear that wisdom is the essential salvific principle, as I have discussed elsewhere.

Concentration is explained as “one-pointedness of mind” (SN 51:13(3).  Desire is desire for the renunciation of evil unwholesome states and the development and maintenance of positive wholesome states using the four faculties of desire, energy, mind, and investigation.  These terms suggest the four yogas of the Indian system: bhakti, the yoga of love, devotion, or worship (desire); hatha, the yoga of arduous physical effort; and jnana, the cognitive yoga of mental or philosophical inquiry, whereas the reiterated references to “volitional formations of striving” subsumes karma yoga (cf. Vivekananda’s Four Yogas).

Ananda tells the Brahmin Unnabha that the Four Bases of Spiritual Power is the practice by which desire is abandoned, which he identifies with the goal of the Buddhist path (SN 51:15(5)). Interestingly, therefore, it is by desire, i.e., striving, that desire is abandoned. Immabha objects to the practice on exactly this point, an argument that Ananda refutes, pointing out that when desire is gratified it abates. Similarly, when the desire for arhantship is satisfied, desire abates. This is reminiscent of the Buddha’s distinction between wholesome and unwholesome pleasures, only the second of which he rejects. This in turn became the basis for his rejection of physical asceticism as a way.

The Buddha also says that the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path leads to the development of the bases for spiritual power (SN 51:19(9)).

While on retreat, it occurred to Ananda that the practice of asceticism is successful for one who relies half on good friends and half on “manly effort.” When he returns he asks the Buddha about this, who declares that “this is the entire holy life, Ananda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. When a bhikkhu has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, it is to be expected that he will develop and cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path” (SN 45:2(2); cf. AN IX:1(1)(5)). Spiritual friendship and energy are thus equated.

Related Doctrines

We have already discussed the correlation between the concept of energy in the Pali Canon and the lunar soma juice.  Soma appears in the Pali Canon as amata, referring to the immortal or deathless state, but also to ambrosia, cognate with Sanskrit amrita, the divine water of immortality, “churned” by the gods from the one world ocean. Energy is cognate with other concepts in the Pali Canon, including karma, the essential kinetic or energetic principle itself; will or intention, which creates karma; craving, which is the human kinetic principle in its fallen, debased, passionate, or “attached” state; and siddhi, spiritual, magical, or psychic powers that are said to result from intense spiritual practice.

We also find the principle of energy implicit in other doctrines of the Pali Canon with which we are familiar: merit, the stored accumulation of positive karmic potential; the transfer of merit, by which merit may be intentionally directed, shared, and increased; the power of truth, which figures prominently in the Jatakas but also appears elsewhere in the Pali Canon; and the act of truth, by which the potential power of truth may be utilized to create change, usually by means of a vow or affirmation. The kinetic principle also appears in the concept of mantra, by which the repetition of a verbal formula with awareness and intention can facilitate spiritual transformation including siddhis; and in mantra-yoga, the original term for Tantra, the yoga of energy or power.

These concepts correlate with similar concepts in other, post-Pali Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions, including the Indian concept of kundalini, the psychosomatic “serpent” energy “coiled’ or potential at the base of the spine, which the Buddha may have experienced during his practice of asceticism; Tibetan tummo or “psychic heat,” which can be generated to protect the body even in conditions of extreme cold; Chinese qi, the energy of vitality or life, which can be used to affect people at a distance as well as for healing in the practice of Qigong; and finally sexual yoga, which is greatly developed in certain highly esoteric traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, especially Kalachakra.

Zoroastrianism refers to the khvarenah (xvarenah), literally “glory” or “splendour,” referring to a divine mystical force or power associated with kingship and luck. The word is derived from Proto-Avestan *hvar, “to shine,” thus associating it with the devas, the “shining ones.” The word is also attested in Sogdian farn and Khotanese pharra, which refers to the high position or dignity of a Buddha. Khvarenah  is also associated with the haoma, a divine plant cognate with Vedic soma, possibly ephedra, a precursor of methamphetamine that excites the brain and increases body heat.[6] It is still used in Chinese medicine and was also used as a tea by native Americans and Mormon pioneers.

These concepts, doctrines, and practices are not aberrations but rather developments of concepts found in seminal form all through the Pali Canon, and will constitute the subject of Part II of this talk.

Some Synonyms and Cognate Terms for Energy (viriya)

Ardent (atapi)
Arising (uppada)
Arousal (arambha)
Delight (nandi)
Desire (chanda)
Enthusiasm (ussolhi)
Exertion (opakkama, sankhara)
Fire (teja)
Intention (sankappa)
Life (ayu, jivita)
Light (aloka)
Luminosity (obhasa, pabhasa)
Manly effort (viriya)
Heat (usma)
Power (bala, iddhi)
Radiant (abhassaro)
Rapture (piti)
Shining one (deva)
Stirring (eja)
Striving (padhana)
Virtue (silava)
Vitality (ayu)
Zeal (chanda)

 

Part II

Recapitulation of Part 1

Last time I introduced the topic of energy (Pali viriya), as an important element of the Buddhist path, and associated it with words relating to masculine sexuality. In the Indian tradition, male sexuality is explicitly associated with the spiritual quest, an association that is confirmed by depth psychology. As a man on the verge of self-perfection, the bodhisattva in his final rebirth is portrayed as a virile, healthy, attractive, and sexually active male. The fact that the Buddha was not chaste during his early years created a difficulty for him in the context of the social norms of his time, resulting in accusations of laxness that dogged him all through his life. This is documented in the Pali Canon. Seminal retention was highly valued, and there is no indication that the Buddha was not completely chaste after the age of 29 although he was comfortable consorting with a royal harlot towards the end of his life. In this respect, he was rather like Yeshua, the Galilean bodhisattva, and quite unlike the self-righteous religious moralists of his time and ours.

The Buddhist description of energy (“virility”) is clearly phallic. It is aroused, persisted in, and “exerted.” This may even be the ideological justification for the spiritual misogyny that we find all through the Pali Canon. (However, the Buddha does not appear to have drawn this conclusion.) Arousing energy alone is not sufficient, however. It must also be moderated or it can become a source of instability. “Arousing energy” is in fact the literal meaning of arya, “noble” (lit. “striving”). “Putting forth energy” is especially associated with mental concentration as well as the so-called “walking meditation.” There are also references to a “condition of heat,” those expert in developing this condition, and therefore the implication of a yoga of heat, perhaps similar to that found in Tibetan Buddhism. This “heat” is associated with the snake, as in later Indian traditions associated with the kundalini energy at the base of the spine. The power of energy is also associated with the power of truth and the act of truth. Energy is aroused “for the attainment of the as-yet-unattained, for the achievement of the as-yet-unachieved, for the realization of the as-yet-unrealized,” and is even associated directly with the attainment of nirvana through the light and luminosity symbolism that is associated with the attainment of enlightenment – an association that is not only in the English. Energy is also associated with the attainment of psychic powers, including a “force of life” that promotes longevity and the experience of ecstatic, visionary, and even psychedelic states of mind.

I also identified cognate concepts that appear to be similar to energy that developed in Buddhist traditions, presumably based on the texts I have been citing. Once again, we see Buddhist traditions drawing on the same texts that we also find in the Pali Canon. These concepts include soma, karma, will, craving, siddhi, merit, power of truth, mantra, kundalini, tummo, and qi.  I’ll be discussing some of these traditions in this talk, especially kundalini yoga, tummo yoga, qijong, and sexual yoga.

Kundalini Yoga

The concept of “kundalini” appears to have originated during the Upanishadic period (9th-3rd cent. BCE). The word means “coiled.” It is also the name of the goddess Durga, a form of Shakti, the primordial cosmic energy and divine feminine creative power. Kundalini was used as the name of a “serpent-like” shakti in the eleventh century. The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad was codified in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

variants_5416Kundalini refers to a psychophysical or psychosomatic “spiritual energy” or “vital force” associated with the area at the base of the spine, in the triangular-shaped sacrum bone, the so-called muladhara chakra. Interestingly, the word “sacrum” means “sacred.” Kundalini is symbolized as a coiled serpent. The signs of kundalini awakening include a variety of physical symptoms, including spasmodic jerking, sensations of electricity, heat, visions, unusual sounds, sexual arousal, emotionality, headache, increased blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, pain, sensitivity, altered states of consciousness, and disturbances of sleep or appetite. These symptoms may persist for various periods of time but are usually self-resolving if allowed to pursue their own course.

Kundalini yoga is also known as laya yoga (lit. “union by absorption”). It is a Hindu school of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra. Its goal is to “awaken” – a word also used by the Buddha – kundalini. Techniques used to achieve this include meditation, breath work or pranayama, chanting mantras, and physical postures (asanas) or exercises. Practitioners say that kundalini awakening feels like an electric current running along the spine.

Kundalini yoga is a synthesis of hatha yoga (lit. “union by effort”) , kriya yoga (lit. “union by action”), and laya yoga. Two classic textbooks of this yoga include the Hathayogapradikpika and the Shivasamhita. The Shivasamhita refers to four yogas used to activate the kundalini potential: mantra yoga, hatha yoga, laya yoga, and raja yoga (lit. “royal yoga” or perhaps “union by will”) and states that kundalini realization is trans-dual.

The Buddha refers to an illumination that he experienced because of his ascetic practices, which he associated with severe physical pain: “But although tireless energy was aroused in me and unremitting mindfulness was established, my body was overwrought and uncalm because I was exhausted by the painful striving. But such painful feeling that arose in me did not invade my mind and remain” (MN 36:20-25, repeated in MN 85 and 100). This experience was effected by means of intense mental concentration, extreme breath work, and self-starvation. This sounds typical of kundalini awakening. Gopi Krishna, for example, was in an extremely painful dysfunctional state for sixteen years before his kundalini finally became balanced and calm.

When “awakened” or activated, the kundalini is “directed” through the central nerve channel of the spine (the sushumna) through six energy centres or chakras, whence it “penetrates” the seventh chakra, the sahasrara, located at the top of the head, inducing an ecstatic state.[7]

Methods to awaken kundalini are divided into active and passive. Active methods include physical exercises, concentration, visualization, breath work, meditation, and chanting. The passive method is surrendering oneself emotionally to the guru, whence the cult of guru worship or “bhakti yoga” that we find in popular Hinduism and in Buddhism too.

Further Reading

“The Sacrum Bone.” Sahaz E-zine (April 2001), Vol. 2:4. http://holyspirit-shekinah.org/_/sacrum_bone.htm

Sivananda. Kundalini Yoga. Divine Life Society.

Woodroffe, John,  The Serpent Power. 1918.

Tummo Yoga

 

(3:28)

Tummo (pronounced ‘dumo’) refers to a form of Tibetan breath work based on the Six Yogas of Naropa (11th century); the 12th century Lamdre (Tib. “path”) teachings, regarded as the highest or chief practice of the Shakya school; Kalachakra (10th-11th centuries); and Anuyoga, the second highest practice of the Nyingma system of Tibetan Buddhism, second only to Atiyoga or Dzogchen. The Tibetan word tummo means “fierce [woman]” or “inner fire.”

The fundamental conception of tummo is familiar to us as the system of energy channels or nadis that run all through the body, especially the central spinal cord, and two adjacent channels that run on either side of the spine, associated with “solar’ and “lunar” energies. In tummo, the three lowest chakras are visualized to focus bodily awareness on the area below the navel. Vital energy, conceptualized as a “wind” (Skt. prana), is activated, accumulated, and forced into the central channel by a combination of breath control and other yogic exercises. As it accumulates, the energy creates a “psychic heat” (Tib. drod) that destroys karma.

Tummo is the practical basis of karmamudra, which I’ll discuss shortly in the context of sexual yoga. Interestingly, tummo practitioners wear clothes of special colours to intensify the tummo fire.[8]

The mastery of tummo is part of the completion stage of the Anuttarayoga Tantra. The completion stage follows the generation state. Completion stage “with marks” is based partly on tummo yoga.

Tummo, which is really the Tibetan version of kundalini yoga, also known as candali (Skt. candala, “outcaste”?) yoga was developed as a practice by the Tibetan mahasiddhas (associated with Padmasambhava) between the 8th and 12th centuries. Milarepa was a prominent practitioner of candali yoga.

The ability of tummo practitioners to withstand extreme cold is well attested. In Tibet, the tummo adept is required to spend the night on a glacier glad only in a cotton cloth. If he survives the night, he is considered to have mastered the tummo practice. The Dutch daredevil Wim Hof uses similar techniques to withstand extreme cold, and has been studied by scientists.

The following summary of tummo yoga is based on the classic translation of a Tibetan block print entitled (in English translation) “An Epitome of the Six Doctrines.”

The Yoga of the Psychic Heat consists of five preliminary exercises and three fundamental practices. The essential method is to sit cross-legged, purify the body through a series of intensive visualizations and breathing exercises, and then through the force of meditative concentration activate and direct the “psychic heat” up through the spine to illuminate the brain and the whole body. The result is that one experiences an all-pervading bodily warmth and bliss. Easy to say, hard to do! The complete instruction consists of about forty pages, and presupposes very advanced imaginative and meditative skills. There are several Western witnesses to tummo yoga, including the adventurer Alexandra David-Neel, Lama Anagarika Govinda, and anthropologist Dr. John Crook.

Further Reading

W.Y. Evans Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. London: Oxford University Press, 1935; 2nd ed. 1958; rpt. 1967.

Qigong

 (6:08)

Literally “the practice of vital energy,” qigong is used in Chinese martial arts like gongfu to cultivate and balance qi, or “life energy.” Similar in principle to “walking meditation,” qigong coordinates bodily movements, breath work, and meditation. Qigong is traditionally a secret esoteric practice handed down by lineages of transmission and is especially associated with Taoism. The term is Taoist and originated during the Tang dynasty (7th-10th centuries). There are many forms of qigong, including 75 ancient and 56 modern forms. Today qigong combines Taoist “internal alchemy,” ancient meditations called “cultivating qi” and “standing meditation,” and a breathing exercise called “guiding and pulling.” Qigong plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine for its healing qualities, Confucianism to promote longevity and develop character, and as a form of meditation in Taoism and Buddhism. Since the Cultural Revolution in China, the Communist Party has worked to consolidate qigong theory and practice on a scientific basis. The Qigong Science and Research Organization was established for this purpose in 1985, but the Chinese government has also cracked down on the practice since 1999. The Chinese Health Qigong Association, a state-run agency established in 2000, officially recognizes nine forms of qigong.

The concept of qi is not too dissimilar from the Indian concept of prana, the vital “wind” that is associated with the vitality of the body, but also associated with a universal or cosmic energy. It is based on a theory of energy flow throughout the body, nerve meridians or channels, energy centres, and balancing qi in meridians or other pathways, much like kundalini yoga.

Qigong incorporates five basic techniques: intentional movement, rhythmic breathing, awareness visualization, and chanting or sound. In addition, qigong practice incorporates a soft gaze and an expressionless face; solid stance; relaxation; and balance and counterbalance, where one moves in relation to a centre of gravity. The goals of qigong practice include equanimity, tranquility, and stillness. Practising with little or no motion is generally considered the highest form of qigong practice. One can see the similarity to Buddhism here right away.

0Qigong may be classified as dynamic, static, meditative, and external.  Dynamic or active qigong, called dong gong, is based on repetitive stretching and fluid movements, breathing, and awareness. Static qigong, called jing gong, involves holding postures for extended periods, similar to yoga. An example of a qigong posture is the Horse Stance, which I learned from my chiropractor who was an ethnic Chinese Tai Chi master. External or meditative qigong focuses on meditation, breath work, visualization, and chanting. External qigong utilizes external supports including herbs, food, drinks, massage, physical manipulations, and interaction with other living organisms including treatment by a therapist who directs and transmits qi. Qigong meditation combines slow stylized movements, deep breathing, mental concentration, and visualization of qi in the body.                      

Sexual Yoga

In his Introduction to Buddhism (2nd ed., 2013) Peter Harvey refers quite openly to “sexual yoga,” so I will use that term here.

Tantric Buddhists re-evaluate the body, based on the early Buddhist insight that nirvana is realized through the body. The great Theravadin scholar-translator, Buddhaghosa, went so far as to state that this realization is unique to the dharma. The Guhyasamaja Tantra advances sexual yoga, including pleasure as the path to Buddhahood (enjoying desire without attachment requires a far more rigorous discipline than simple abstinence). Sexual yoga is mostly practised in the first Tibetan Buddhist school, the Nyingma, founded by Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Only partners with years of physical training can practice sexual yoga. The seminal fluid, symbolizing the bodhicitta, is retained and visualized as ascending through an energy channel in the back to the top of the head (the Tibetan version of the sushumna). Even among the conservative Gelugpa, founded by Tsongskapa, sexual yoga is still practised by monastics as a visualization.

The Nyingma have nine grades, levels, or degrees of realization and practice, the top three degrees being Atiyoga (equivalent to Dzogchen), Anuyoga, and the Mahayoga (working with the yidams, symbols of “enlightened energy”; the mental body; and the six yogas of Naropa). According to Harvey, Anuyoga is seen as particularly appropriate for the passionate. While visualizing the energy in the energy channels, and chanting and visualizing mantras, the male is visualized as a male deity and the female visualized as the yidam’s consort or shakti. These embody skilled means and wisdom. In the esoteric twilight language of the Tantras, the penis is called the Vajra (the diamond-thunderbolt representing indestructibility and irresistible force) and the vulva the lotus flower. The sexual energy is inhibited and sublimated, visualized as ascending the spine till it reaches the top of the head, where it generates a blissful state of non-dual radiant clarity; skilled means and wisdom are joined, all concepts and images vanish and there is direct gnosis of emptiness. This yoga is performed in a calm state and with deliberation, so that the energy is directly experienced, “reversed” or “inverted” (“the method of reversal”) and finally transmuted into wisdom.[9]

Although the Pali Canon is clearly misogynistic and anti-sexual, and the sangha was clearly (intended to be) chaste, it is reasonable to include sexual energy in the category of the Buddhist conception of energy, and we have clearly established this is our discussion of the Buddhist concept of viriya or ‘virile energy’ with reference to the oldest Buddhist texts in the first part of this talk. In his final rebirth as a bodhisattva, the Buddha was clearly highly sexed, to put it directly, up until his renunciation at the age of 29, six years prior to his Enlightenment. Thus, the Pali Canon paints the picture of a virile male who transcends his own sexuality in the act of renunciation, rather than a eunuch, whether asexual or repressed, which is more commonly associated with monasticism in the West. The Pali Canon itself states that arhantship is only available to humans for the first two thousand years after the Parinibbana, i.e., approximately 1600 CE (1100-2100 CE allowing for rounding).[10] Once again, the present century is perceived as a time of great significance. Sexual yoga might also be associated with the path of the householder, who is clearly not celibate but who may practise meditation according to the Pali Canon. Even according to the Pali Canon, it is possible for a householder to achieve arhantship. Thus, the prohibition of sexual intercourse according to the Vinaya does not necessarily prohibit the possibility of a Buddhist sexual yoga. Moreover, in fact one finds this to be historically the case. There are even indications in the Vinaya that an unknown but significant number of monastics were not celibate, even during the time of the Buddha.

In Tibet, sexual yoga is called karmamudra, literally “action seal.” This is a Vajrayana or Tantra practice of union with a consort, either physical or visualized. Karmamudra is considered equivalent in attainment to visualization of the yidam and tummo yoga. According to the six Yogas of Naropa, it is either a yoga in its own right or an aspect of tummo yoga. The traditional Tibetan view is that karmamudra is necessary to achieve Buddhahood, although this is not universally held today, including by the present Dalai Lama. This explains the otherwise inexplicable significance of the Bodhisattva’s enthusiasm for women during his youth.

The mastery of tummo yoga is considered to be the prerequisite to practise karmamudra properly. Thus, it is a very advanced practice. Women communicated it through secret oral instructions. Women also wrote seven eighth century tantric texts. In Tibet, non-monastic yogis mainly in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools would practice karmamudra, especially treasure (terma) seekers, ngagpas (non-monastic practitioners of Dzogchen), and hereditary lamas. The practice of karmamudra has also come to the West along with some Tibetan dharma teachers, such as Kalu Rinpoche, with mixed results. See, for example, anthropologist June Campbell’s book, Traveler in Space. There is also a book review online.[11]

Sexuality has featured prominently in the Indian tradition, including Krishna, Ramakrishna, and Aurobindo and the Mother, and others. Even the chaste Krishnamurti had an illicit affair (and Gandhi too, apparently)!

There are also autonomous Western traditions of sexual yoga associated with the gnostic Christians, Swedenborg, William Blake, John Dee and Edward Kelley, Pascal Beverly Randolph, Karl Kellner, Aleister Crowley, Adi Da, and others. Other ancient civilizations, including the Sumerians, Greeks, and Romans carried out sexual orgia in the context of spirituality amounting to a yoga.

The essential metaphysical principle of sexual yoga is the realization that nirvana and samsara are ultimately one in the trans-dual reality. The essential reality of the phenomenon is always enlightenment. This is the ultimate teaching of interdependent origination. Phenomena themselves do not create suffering, it is craving that reifies sentient energy into illusory objects of attachment (kinetic and static). Therefore, all energy is essentially emptiness; the realization of emptiness is enlightenment. The phenomenal, therefore,  can through realization be transmuted from a factor of ignorance into a factor of enlightenment by the skilled means (upaya) of quenching desirous attachment. As Ananda himself states in the Pali Canon, desire disappears entirely when it is completely satisfied (SN 51:15(5)). Therefore, “quenching” (nirvana) is also the ultimate satisfaction of desire. The Buddha never renounces the principle of wholesome pleasure, and nirvana itself is seen as blissful. In order to realize this in practice one must be very advanced towards the realization of emptiness and thus emancipation, for anyone else would not be able to overcome attachment and thus intensify even more one’s bondage to rebirth Therefore, by definition only the very advanced yogi can practise sexual yoga – or a bodhisattva in his final rebirth! At the same time, there are also degrees of practice but and householder forms of sexual yoga logically follow. By following these the householder may be assured of complying with the Third Precept.

In conclusion I’d like to read an explicit description of Tibetan sexual yoga, also called the secret and wisdom empowerments, found on page 233 of chapter 7 of Paul Williams’s Buddhist Thought, by Anthony Tribe, which perfectly summarizes all the of the foregoing. However, Yarmouth is in a general region so in deference to Linden Labs I will refer you to the blog.

The secret and wisdom empowerments were controversial in India for the sexual elements in them. They may still seem shocking today. The secret empowerment, which follows the completion of the jar empowerments, requires the person being initiated, who in the texts is generally presumed to be male, to lead the woman who will be his tantric partner to the Vajra-master. The Vajra-master sexually unites with her. After ejaculating, the Vajra-master collects some of the combined sexual fluids, which is symbolically equated with bodhicitta, form the woman’s vagina. This he places on the tongue of the person being initiated who must swallow it without hesitation, exclaiming ‘O Bliss!’ (Candamaharosana Tantra iii). For the wisdom empowerment the Vajra-master returns the woman to the person being initiated who in turns unites with her. As he does so, he (in theory) should experience a series of four states of bliss (ananda).

Further Reading

Harvey, Peter. Introduction to Buddhism. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

“I Was a Tantric Sex Slave.” The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/i-was-a-tantric-sex-slave-1069859.html.

Tribe, Anthony. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, by Paul Williams. Chapter 7: Tantric Buddhism in India. London: Routledge, 2000.

The Nine Yanas of Nyingma

The ancient school (Nyingma) divided the entire Buddhist path into three vehicles and nine stages. The vehicles are called vehicles because they are means of going (cf. the “chariot” (Heb. merkabah) as a symbol of the “great work” in Cabala).[12] The stages are called stages because they are stages of the way. Anthony Tribe interestingly observed that “this division is broadly chronological. Kriya tantras are generally earlier than the Carya, with the Carya generally preceding the Yoga tantras” (Paul Williams, Buddhist Thought (2000), p. 203). All of these divisions are ultimately divisions of two things, the path and the fruit, which are in turn the kinetic and static aspects of the one ultimate trans-dual reality, the dharma itself.

Each stage is characterized by view, meditation, and activity. In the table that follows, I have focused on clarifying the practice or practices associated with each stage expressed in the simplest and most direct language possible. Many of these practices are cultural adaptations of universal technqiues found all through the perennial philosophy, but are presented in deliberately involved, obscure, and often ambiguous language (the so-called “twilight” language) so are difficult to identify clearly, which is why I have chosen to focus on them here. The table collates multiple references, not all of which agree.

Nine Yana’s of the Nyingma System

Inner  (Internal) Tantra – The Way of Transformation

Atiyoga(yana) (mahamudra) Dzogchen
Anuyoga(yana)(anuttara yoga) (“completion or perfection stage”) Sexual yoga; meditation on the mental body, chakras, winds, energy channels, and essential consciousness (some sources place six yogas of Naropa here)
Mahayoga(yana) (“generation or development stage”) Sexual elements and forbidden/impure substances; working with the yidam,[13] subtle body and six yogas of Naropa[14] (other sources say identification with the deity and their consort or shakti)

Outer (External) Tantra – The Way of Purification

Yogatantra (yogayana) Minor sexual elements (some sources say identification with a deity)
Caryatantra (upa(tantra)yana, ubhaya) Self-identification with a deity (deity yoga) (some sources say regarding the deity as a brother or a friend)
Kriyatantra (kriyayana) Rituals of protection, purification, mantras, and mandalas; deity worship

Sutra – The Way of Renunciation

Bodhisattva Cultivation of the perfections; bodhicitta; realization of emptiness; 37 factors of enlightenment
Pratyekabuddha Tranquility and insight meditation; method of reversal (interdependent origination)
Shrvaka Self-control (ethics) (some sources put insight and tranquility meditation here)
——— [Ngondro]

See Peter Harvey, op. cit., pp. 128 f., 204, 356.

As you can see, sexual yoga is specifically associated with the eighth degree of Anuyoga. Anuyoga corresponds to the Tantric completion phase, already mentioned. In this grade, one visualizes the mental body, chakras, winds, energy channels, and the bindu – lit. “semen,” identified with the vital or essential consciousness (vinnana). One meditates on and experiences the identity of nirvana and samsara as the unity of emptiness and wisdom. The Anuyoga tantras number three thousand pages in Tibetan text. A quick search on Amazon shows that there is one book on Anuyoga in English – Key to Opening the Wisdom Door of Anuyoga, by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche.

Further Reading

Dilgo Kyentse. “The Nine Ways.http://www.vajrayana.org.hk/Doc/The%20Nine%20Ways%20by%20HH%20Dilgo%20Khyentse.pdf.

Harvey, Peter. Introduction to Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche. Key to Opening the Wisdom Door of Anuyoga. https://www.amazon.ca/Key-Opening-Wisdom-Door-Anuyoga/dp/B01K3RLWY2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493256760&sr=8-1&keywords=anuyoga.

“Nine Vehicles of the Nyingma.” https://earlytibet.com/2007/08/21/the-nine-vehicles-of-the-nyingma-new-sources/.

Zenkar, Alak and Thubten Nyima. “A Brief Presentation of the Nine Vehicles.” http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/alak-zenkar/nine-yanas.

NOTES

[1] “Should any bhikkhu — participating in the training and livelihood of the bhikkhus, without having renounced the training, without having declared his weakness — engage in the sexual act, even with a female animal, he is defeated and no longer in communion” (trans. Thanissaro). The qualification is typical of the Pali Canon and indicates one of the means by which some bhikkus sought to evade the injunction.

[2] The Pali Canon implies that Sariputta and Maudgalyayana were even accused of homoerotism, an accusation that the Buddha rejected, stating that that they were only friends. Their cremated remains were housed together in the famous Third Stupa and at the Satadhara Stupa, with Sariputta in the south and Moggallana in the north (the same relations to the Buddha that they had in life). However, the statement that Sariputta was attracted to the sangha by the ”surpassing beauty” of the male monastic, Upasena, clearly implies that he was homosexual, which need not imply that that Sariputta and Maudgalyayana had anything more than a “platonic” relationship, however. Maudgalyayana was violently murdered at the age of 84. See Wikipedia, “Relics of Sariputra and Mahamoggallana.”

[3] Cf. Gen. 38:8-10: “And Judah said unto Onan, Go into unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.” According to an early Rabbinic tradition, this passage refers to masturbation. The Egyptians also regarded semen as a potent and even dangerous substance, and prohibited its wastage. (KJV) (ed.)

[4] Explained as the non-arising of unarisen bad unwholesome qualities, the abandoning of arisen bad unwholesome qualities, the arising of unarisen wholesome qualities, and the maintenance of arisen wholesome qualities respectively (AN IV:69(9)).

[5] Compare the notorious Abignitantra, “तुम्हारी हड्डियों पर अपना मांस लटका दे, और अपनी आँखें अनगिनत तक अपनी शोकहित वासना से चमकते हुए, अज्ञात के लिए अपने जुनून के साथ, उसके लिए वह ज्ञान से परे है जो एक के पास है।”.

[6] The identity of soma or haoma is a matter of dispute. The mainstream view equates it with ephedra, an amphetamine, whereas others hold that soma was a  psychedelic. Whatever its ultimate identity, everyone agrees however that it was a mind-altering substance.

[7] In addition, there are two adjacent channels, the ida (Skt. “comfort”) and pingala (Skt. “tawny”) lunar and solar channels, associated with the left and right sides of the body respectively. The channels wind around the sushumna in a figure 8, similar to the DNA helix. Where they intersect at the forehead, throat, heart, solar plexus, abdomen, and sex organs they generate the corresponding chakras. If you overlap this description onto a map of the internal organs of the human body, you discover an interesting coincidence; the chakras correspond to the glands of the endocrine system in the order pineal, pituitary, thyroid, thymus, pancreas, gonads, and adrenals.  The endocrine system secretes hormones directly into the circulatory system to regulate the organs of the body and is described as an “information signal system.” I have described the Indian system of chakras. The Tibetans have a similar but slightly different variation of this description, which I will not go into today.

[8] David Icke was instructed by his spiritual teachers to wear turquoise, associated in Buddhism with the goddess Tara or Dolma, the Buddhist “Liberation Goddess,” to purify and intensify his psychic energy.  Interestingly, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition is that “wearing ‘living’ turquoise is therefore very desirable, as it will give long life to the wearer” (http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/colors/2/).

[9] See Harvey, op. cit., pp. 191, 193, 205, 208, 296, 356f. The Dalai Lama tells us that Tibetan tradition teaches us that we experience the state of “radiant clarity” or “clear light state” momentarily when we sneeze, faint, sleep, orgasm, or die (The Universe in a Single Atom (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005), p. 157).

[10] Anguttara Nikaya (trans. Bodhi), p. 1805, n. 1747.

[11] “I Was a Tantric Sex Slave.” The Independent, 10 February 1999. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/i-was-a-tantric-sex-slave-1069859.html.

[12] The so-called “work of the chariot” has some similarities to kundalini, including the notion of a primal energy that is awakened and directed upward through seven heavenly realms or “wheels” to the highest divine state associated with illumination and bliss.

[13] “The yidam represents awakening and so its appearance reflects whatever is required by the practitioner in order to awaken” (Wikipedia). The Tibetan notion of a yidam may be compared with concepts such as the egregore, patron saint, loa, totem, power animal, or even “holy guardian angel” in different traditions. The yidam symbolizes enlightened energy or “Buddha-nature,” and is thus an emanation of one’s own mind (in its ultimate aspect). Working with the yidam involves high levels of concentration and visualization. Any Tantric deity may be a yidam.

[14] The six yogas of Naropa include the yogas of psychic heat (Tib. tummo), illusory body, lucid dreaming, clear light, intermediate state (Tib. bardo), and consciousness transference (Tib. phowa). See Harvey, op. cit., p. 354.

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