"WHAT IS TANTRA?!"
                RIDING THE WISDOM TIGER


Introduction:

From the beginning of time there have been those rare women and men
who, following their hearts great yearning, have answered the
existential question of birth and death with realization of who they
truly are - who we all are. Pranama is such a one. He invites,
cajoles, dares us to join the dance. Read his words, let them enter
your heart and smash the taboo against unreasonable happiness. The
flame of being is passed from master to disciple in the great silence
of the heart - these words are an engraved invitation.

                                R. F.


 "What is Tantra?"
  an interview with Tantric Master Prem Pranama

This interview occured in the summer of 1994. The interviewer, Ralph
Abrams, has been a spiritual seeker for the last 25 years. He has
worked with Swami Muktananda, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Chagdud Tulku,
Nagkpa Chogyum, Native American teachers and currently lives in the
Crazy Cloud Hermitage where he studies the Tantric path with Pranama.

R: The word Tantra is thrown around quite a bit in spiritual circles
these days, and it often means very different things. I'd like to
start off with the simple question: What is Tantra?


P: Tantra is the hot blood of spiritual practice. It smashes the taboo
against unreasonable happiness; a thunderbolt path, swift, joyful, and
fierce.  There are many different types of paths. Some touch you like
a gentle spring rain, but Tantra is the wild summer thunder storm
churning with creation, destruction, bliss and emptiness.  Tantra is a
wild mother tiger - if you approach her with right motivation, right
intention, and integrity, she'll suckle you at her breast; but if you
come to her in a sloppy way, she'll rip apart your body-mind, eat you
for dinner, and shit out what's left.

R: Wow!  I think that this sense of joyful abandon and the force and
bliss you've described would make the Tantric path attractive to many
people.  Plus the fact that it is known to be a very swift path to
enlightenment.

P.  Swift, yes.  But the Tantric Vajrayana path is complex and can be
dangerous.  It requires a strong, well integrated sense of self
prepared through careful preliminary practice. Otherwise it is
possible for the practitioner to make gross errors in judgment.  On
the Tantric path, it is perhaps easier to become the ultimate form of
egohood and delusion than it is to become free. You can start off
intending to liberate the tyranny of ordinary appearance into
primordial awareness and end up crystallizing the ego into
diamond-hard delusion. There is no authentic Tantra without profound
commitment, discipline, intelligence, courage, and a sense of wild,
foolhardy, fearless abandon.

R: Why is that? And why foolhardy abandon?

P: Foolhardy because the path is for gamblers.  There is a beautiful
Rumi poem which speaks to this from the Sufi tradition.

 "Love is reckless; not reason.  Reason seeks a profit.  Love comes on
strong, consuming herself unabashed.

Yet in the midst of suffering love proceeds like a millstone, hard
surfaced and straight forward.

Having died to self interest, she risks everything and asks for
nothing.  Love gambles away every gift God bestows.

Without cause God gave us Being; without cause give it back again.
Gambling yourself away is beyond any religion.

Religion seeks grace and favor, but those who gamble these away are
Gods favorites, for they neither put God to the test nor knock at the
                              door of gain and loss"
        (translation by Edmund Helminski)

   Tantra takes the jump into crazy wisdom by eliminating even God from
the equation, leaving only the mystery with no ultimate attempt to
define it. This is a path for those whose hearts are so wild that they
are ready to throw it all away on a hunch, for an intuition.
  Discipline, courage, hard work and intelligence are required
because that is what any quest of the heart demands.  Tantra, which
molds the power of creation and ego into skillful means cutting
through delusion, requires careful preparation. We don't expect
someone who just wants to play around now and then on a keyboard to
become a concert pianist. We don't expect someone to be able to get up
off the couch one day and run a four minute mile. Great tasks require
great effort.
   With Tantra we are taking the mind and body as cauldron, feeling,
ego, elements and world as alchemical ingredients, and imagination
informed by divine power as catalyst; and we are accomplishing the
great magical task of alchemical transformation. The base metal of
dualistic view becomes the infinitely valuable gold of pure and
luminous awareness. Tantra is a path of tremendous power. This power
is not easy to use without getting burned by it. Yet, at the same
time, it is a path of great joy.
   If you're going to use poison, pleasure, and personality as the
path, you have to be careful not to auto-destruct. In working with an
advanced sadhana (practice) such as Vajrakilaya, which is central to
our lineage, powerful energies of psyche, nature, and the subtle
realms are harnessed. When such a powerful sadhana is introduced into
one's system through authentic empowerment, it is not something to be
taken lightly. Let's say you re going to bring anger into the
path. It's a razor's edge between liberating anger into the wrathful
compassion of mirror like wisdom and just becoming an arrogant,
self-righteous prig. With Vajrakilaya, either you are actually
transforming your mind stream into this wisdom-being of great wrath
and power, or you are just dressing up your egoistic anger in the
deitie's clothes. If Tantra is misused, the divine becomes a demon.
   When you work with the Tantric path, you are playing with a live
wire. It s charged not with electricity, but with the power behind
creative force. Tantric sadhana deconstructs and constructs reality,
as play, until the essence of reality becomes obvious.  Through the
sadhanas, private non-realities interface with the public non-reality
until you realize the true nature of both. You use illusion to cut
through illusion.

R.  I am not sure I understand what you mean by public and private
non-realities. Are the images, energies, and beings worked with in the
practices real or not? Could you elaborate on that bit?

P.  The basis of all this lies in an understanding of Dharmakaya and
sunyata, "the realm of essence" and "emptiness". The Dharmakaya is not
a place or even a state of being or consciousness. Dharmakaya is the
field of pure potential, which is exploding into actualized energy and
matter at every moment. Each object or thing, even in its "thingness",
is still in essence characterized by this field of potentiality. In
other words, each "thing" is empty of permanent characteristics; its
characteristics share the quality of pure dynamic potentiality and are
always tending towards the expression of that potential via constant
change and transformation.
   All worlds and fields of perception explode from this pure
potentiality, which is also pure awareness or emptiness. This essence,
this emptiness, is unspeakable and is not any thing at all. And yet it
is the dynamic matrix from which all of this (waving his arm about the
room) arises, and of which all of this is a presentation, and into
which all this returns.
   This explosion of essence creates fields of energetic
perception. This energy is conditioned into forms by the play of cause
and effect. These forms are our world and our self. The world, and all
worlds, are coincident with the essence of awareness, which is
birthless and deathless and utterly free of the implications of form
and limit. The manifest world is not other than essence, but essence
is not limited to the shape or conditions of the manifest worlds. One
might say that the world and all worlds are held together as form by
the conditioned and habitual intent of consciousness. Our particular
world is held together by the intent of human beings. The worlds of
other beings are held by the force of their conditioned intent.
   The structures of existence are not "real" in any ultimate
sense. They are public non-realities, playful dreams shaped out of
essence and molded in form. They are the radiance of pure
potentiality, momentarily given shape by intent and held in a
seemingly cohesive pattern by karma or patterned habitualized
consciousness. A Tantric yogi shatters the tyranny of ordinary
appearance - the forgetting of how things took on their seemingly real
forms - by molding new structures of existence - private
non-realities.
   We are not talking here about "creative visualization" in the sense
generally used. Imagination is, generally, simply mind forms within
the public non-reality. We are talking about the actual deconstruction
of the building blocks of reality and reconstruction of
alternatives. Both public and private non-realities are conditioned
forms of consciousness. By enacting the process of creation and
destruction in the private non-reality the unquestioned authortiy and
permanence of the public non-reality is undermined. Through the
process of advanced Tantric sadhana one is able to recognize the
ground of intrinsic awareness within all conditioned forms. This
realization allows one to live as intrinsic awareness and recognize
all arising as ornaments of that awareness.
   The idea of Tantra is not identification with endless new
conditioned forms of awareness and color.  The point is to slip
between the cracks into the matrix of pure potentiality itself. The
goal is not achievement of unusual states it is to recognize your
primordial intrinsic nature in all appearence. Then all appearance has
the single taste of bliss and wisdom. That's not the end either it's
the beginning of endless play.

R.  That goes quite a bit beyond the general view of Tantra as merely
a way of advanced self-help rather than a profoundly magical or
transcendental practice. But isn't it also true that Tantra (in this
radical form) works with the ordinary emotions and everyday problems?

P.  There are no ordinary emotions and everyday problems. That's the
point.  Being is the natural luminous quality of this matrix of pure
potential and Being presents itself in the play of existence. The
bliss-mad radiance of pure awareness plays in the colors of Being. The
world and your own body, your mind and your energies are nothing other
than the natural communicative thrust of limitlessness.  There is
absolutely nothing ordinary about anything.
   When the colors of Being are read through the distortions of
dualistic view, they appear as emotions and confusion, and one is
bound in the tyranny of ordinary appearance.  Being freed from
distorted view plays as feeling and clarity in the wild and raucous
romp of manifestation. When the true nature of every event is
recognized, even the most seemingly mundane moment will hold such
great beauty that it will shatter the mind.
   Tantra's power lies in its ability to recognize the poisons of ego
as distortions of the qualities of enlightenment.  The practices
transform these distortions or, depending on one's capacity,
spontaneously liberate dualistic distorted view into its own true
nature. For Tantra the stuff of body, emotion and mind, ordinary
emotions and events are the essential ingredients needed for the
alchemical transformation of distorted view into Buddhahood.

R.  You mention Being's appearance as a play of colors, and that
intrigues me. So often Being is described as clear light or white
light. Non-dual realization seems to be a one dimensional and one
flavor thing, whereas this seems to have depth.

P.  Light broken open by a prism displays the colors that are always
its nature. Its essence is clear light and its nature is to manifest
as the colors of the rainbow. Pure awareness is completely transparent
like a sheet of glass. But when broken open, it displays the rainbow
of colors or flavors that are the substance of manifestation. Pure
awareness and the colors of Being are not in opposition or even in any
way two. They are aspects of singleness. So many spiritual paths
inherently, though often subtly, negate world, body, and
existence. They are always seeking to get elsewhere into the "light"
failing to recognize that all is light.
   Spiritual systems often misinterpret bondage as resulting from
being in form rather than from wrong view. Because of this, they
wrongly assume that enlightenment means to be abstracted out of form
into subtle realms or "pure" awareness. These spiritual systems try to
negate form and dissolve, or return, into the pre-form matrix of pure
potentiality. This is possible and that radical act of transcending
form is most blissful - but it is not enlightenment. Form and formless
are not two; they are a single mystery. These systems are
spiritualized forms of the dualistic delusion. Tantra, which in its
true form is Advaitic (or non-dual), transcends this
limitation. Tantra is wisdom gone wild embracing the totality of what
is.
   With Tantra you are not getting somewhere; you are just waking up
to the true nature of things as they are. The colors inherent in clear
light are not other than the light. The display whereby Being presents
its limitless mystery is not other than the birthless and deathless
pure mystery from which Being comes..

R.  It's interesting that you mention Advaita. I recently read
Poonjaji, an Advaitic master. He advocates no practice. Form is
illusion and every action by the illusory self adds to
unenlightenment. What do you think of that.

P: Well, I have great respect for the traditional forms of Advaita. I
have always been intimately connected with Ramana Maharshi, and the
path that I teach is "Advaitic Tantrayana". On the other hand, there are
some serious problems and limitations with the talking school of
Advaita versus the various practice schools such as Tantra.

R: What do you mean by "talking school"?

P: Talking schools are those that understand that delusion is only an
illusion and all that you need to do is understand the illusion to be
free of it. Because all you need to do is understand, then all I need
to do as master is explain the truth to you, and all you need to do is
listen and you will "get it". The problem is that this is a superficial
grasp of understanding. Understanding in the talking school is
considered a primarily mental act. I talk; you listen. In truth
understanding is a whole body act. You must understand with the cells
of your body, your mind and your feelings. Listening involves a
profound action of the entire self. This action is what practice
is. Spiritual practice is the act of listening to the teaching with
the whole body.
   There are fundamental differences between a teacher, even an
awakened one, and a master. Poonjaji is a teacher. He speaks about
Truth very nicely, though he suffers a bit from the delusion of
viewing form as illusion rather than presentation of the formless. Due
to this he lacks the skillful means needed to deal with the actual
roots of delusion. He lacks the skillful means to communicate with the
whole bodily being rather just the mind. In a recent interview he said
that he teaches the pure Truth - some get it, some don't, and he doesn t
know why.  That's the difference between a teacher and a master: A
master knows why and can deal skillfully with the causes.  A master is
willing to deal with delusion on its own ground if necessary.  He or
she is willing to take on the dragon in its cave, even if the dragon
is only an illusion.
   The teachers of the endless talk no practice school go on to say
"open your eyes and see the beautiful sunset. You do not need to do
anything, add anything to yourself. Just open your eyes". While it is
true that you don't need to add anything, the problem is that your
eyes are shut and you are wearing a blindfold. You open your eyes and
see nothing. These teachers do not see you because they are too busy
admiring their own "non-dualism".
   The teachers of the Advaita talking school do in fact give
practices. They give the very difficult practice of pre-verbal inquiry
which works once you have taken off your blindfold. But until then it
leaves you stranded. All too often people make sense of the words and
develop conceptual enlightenment. You understand the description of
the sunset so well that you think you are seeing it, even though you
are still wearing a blindfold and have your eyes closed. People in
this condition even go on to become teachers of the talking school,
endlessly describing the imagined sunset to others. I am sure that it
is based on my Tantric predilection for wisdom gone wild, my delight
in manifestation, but I often find these Advaitic teachers a little
prissy. They are unable to enjoy the game, unable to enjoy the madness
and wildness of existence. There is no space for non-dual dualism in
their non-dualism.

R: That clears up some confusion about Advaita which I hadn't quite
been able to put into words.  You mentioned Ramana Maharshi. As I
understand it your path was not originally Tantric.  I would be
interested in hearing about how you evolved into this style of
practice and teaching. What led you to awakening and to teaching the
way that you do?

P: My introduction and initiation into the world of Tantra began with
a naked menstruating woman in the University of Michigan's graduate
school library. She danced and sang and placed her bleeding cunt over
my mouth and I drank from that source the nectar of immortality, the
liquid union of bliss and emptiness.  She was the Vajra Dakini Yeshe
Tso-gyal, Mother of my true life. But that is the end of the story and
was not planned, asked for, or expected. For most of my spiritual
journey I had nothing to do with Tantra nor wanted to.
   My own spiritual work began in the Gurdjieff system. Gurdjieff was
influenced by Tantric teachings though more strongly influenced by the
Sufi schools. In his system I found a concrete practical method for
working with the habitual conditioning of my body, mind, and
emotions. I got to see myself without any veneer.  It was in this
school that I began to truly crystallize the wish to grow and forge it
into a center of gravity that could begin to pull the unintegrated
parts of the self into a unified whole.
   After some time I began to find that certain axioms on which the
work depended were, for me, limited in their view. Given the lack of
anyone I considered a true Master, I resumed my search for a system
that could take me farther. I visited many different teachers and
communities, read enormous amounts, and engaged in a variety of rather
extreme experiments on myself. Eventually I encountered the work of
the enigmatic and rascally Master Osho.  My meeting with Osho, who was
called Bhagwan at that time, awakened my heart into intense ecstasy
and devotion. It also began a long period of powerful visionary
experiences that centered on the Virgin Mary and the Goddess Kali.
   For me devotion was an instant and natural though hard path often
filled with confusion.  My heart exploded in love. The Guru is the
trigger. The Guru is the object that the devotee uses as an excuse to
slip through the boundaries of ordinary feeling. I learned, in a trial
by fire, that irresponsible devotion to the master always ends in
serious suffering. In other words the Guru ain t your daddy, the Guru
is an introduction to your own nature. What is most important is that
I did learn, and over time the love that Bhagwan awoke in me matured
into non-dual inquiry.
   One day all the energy that had been pouring outward in love for
five years simply stopped and began to move inward.  This process was
fundamentally Ramana Maharshi's question "Who am I"?.  Who is the one
who experiences all experience?  This process cuts through all
hierarchy of "higher" or "lower" experience by cutting to the root of
all experience. Each time I sat down it was like a vortex of energy
moving into expanding fields of silence.  I would feel this vortex and
rest in it. It would draw me into deeper and deeper states of silence
from where I would engage pre-verbal inquiry. What had been ecstasy
and love before was now recognized as a womb-like place of silence.
   When I started the meditative phase of my practice, all the visions
stopped short. Previously they were explosions of love, and they kind
of rode on the outflowing energy of devotion, my interest in them
fueling their appearance.  Very late in the silent phase of practice,
several months before my own awakening, a new series of visionary
experiences began. Visions of Yeshe Tso-gyal, Queen of the Lake of
Awareness, Mother of Pure Pleasure. These visions exploded from the
depths of emptiness and silence.
   One morning, after I had finished my practice, I went to the
library to study Sufi texts.  I was reading two volumes of Rumi's
works.  As I was walking towards the library, I had a feeling that was
familiar from previous visionary experiences.  It was an intense
pleasurable sensation that pushed out from the center of my body, from
my heart, towards my skin, though this time it seemed to open forth
from silent space. I felt giddy and drunk. I looked up and for a
moment I could swear I saw the outline of a dancing woman standing in
the air above the library.  She was huge!  Maybe three hundred feet
tall.
   The vision lasted for a second, and I went in and began reading on
the nearly deserted fourth floor.  The longer I sat, the more intense
this vibration became.  I knew this process very well, and I knew it
would lead to a feeling of such intensity, that the ordinary world
around me would black out. This feeling of ecstatic drunkenness gets
stronger and stronger as if it's resonating more and more swiftly
through the entire body.  At a certain point visionary experience
outshines the "ordinary" world.
   I found myself in a cemetery.  A woman approached.  She was naked,
except for some bone ornaments. She was singing and dancing a tune of
haunting melody, which I later discovered was the mantra of her
consort Padmasambhava: Om Ah Hung Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hung!
   I was entranced, simultaneously with ecstatic love and an absolute
feeling of overwhelming sexual desire so strong that I was sure I
would die from it. She danced around me and then swiftly stood
directly in front of me placing her genitals over my face. Her vagina
was over my mouth, there was blood flowing from it, and I drank this
blood deeply in an unending flow.  I could feel it coursing through my
body like liquid heat.  Suddenly the vision disappeared.  I got up and
went home - well, actually, I think I first went and had a chocolate
chip cookie. This began a period of what my wife and I refer to as the
"drooling in the living room" period.  I spent close to a month, mostly
sitting in a rocking chair in our living room unable to function
because the force of Bliss that was flowing through my body was so
overwhelming. I was also unable to speak about what was happening.

R: You have a very understanding wife.

P: Yes.  Without her I cannot imagine what would have happened to me
during this time.  These experiences awoke in my mind and body such
intense unending bliss and latent neurotic traces of such force that
it was unbelievable.  Feelings of every kind of distortion, rage,
anger, lust, grasping, aversion.  I am sad to say that I did a fair
amount of acting out on these before any balance was restored, causing
suffering to myself and others. Needless to say, this was a very
trying time for our marriage.
   One of the things that happens in spiritual practice is that the
subtle aspects of our ego, the seed essences of ego, hide within our
own practice. If you are lucky enough, at some point the bliss force
of the divine will force these out into the open.
   So it wasn't all just bliss.  It was an encounter with the ugliest
sides of myself and the most beautiful. The whole picture.  The
visions, on a daily basis, kept arising.  By and large they involved
an experiment in mixing states of bliss with my previous practice of
self inquiry and the feeling of silent emptiness.  Bliss wed to
emptiness produces tremendous power and that's what was being
introduced at this point.

R: I can see the evolution of you path from Gurdjieff's very concrete
self work into the devotional relationship with a master and mystical
states and that leading into silence and inquiry. It seems kind of
like this Tantric part was finishing you off. So did this practice
lead to your realization?

P: This was all going on without any conscious volition at all.  I was
continuing Advaitic non-dual self inquiry with all the force I could:
Who is the one experiencing this?  And if I had actually been able to
stop these experiences I probably would have, because they were
distracting me from inquiry as well as provoking some pretty stupid
behavior in my ordinary life. Luckily, the power of the Dakini, the
wisdom woman, was so much greater than my piddling efforts to prevent
it. But as these experiences continued in the body, mind and emotions
I continued my inquiry.
  The awakening came as a result of this practice mix.  The mind of
bliss is capable of penetrating much more deeply into
truth. Happiness, bliss and pleasure inspire a radical kind of
courage. Without it no one would leap into that sky of deathlessness
and selflessness. Without the bliss force no one would be such an
idiot as to throw their life away on a hunch. Realization itself is
beyond any and all experience. It is, however, not exclusive of
experience or even rejecting of it; it is all-inclusive. After
awakening one is restored to absolute and endless humor.

R. So how did your teaching work begin and where did the Tantric
transmission figure in that?

P. Several months after Awakening, a friend of my wife's, feeling the
difference in me, asked if I would help her with her spiritual
practice.  I agreed, and several months later more friends of our
family asked if I would work with them.  My teaching began very slowly
and gradually.  In the beginning, what I taught was non-dual inquiry,
because it seemed the most direct.  What I realized over time was that
the practice of inquiry and also the natural practice of devotion
toward the formless divine is ineffective in most people's lives.  It
doesn't carry with it the skillful means to work with the obscurations
and defilements - the gross and subtle neuroses - that prevent people
from realizing their own nature of bliss and awareness in perfect
union.
   The Advaitic practice that I was doing was extremely similar to the
Dzogchen or Ati Yoga teachings of the Nyingma lineage.  It was through
the Advaitic practices that I was able to reconnect.
   One of the most amazing things about Padmasambhava, Yeshe
Tso-gyal's Guru, was his recognition that there were many teachings
that would need to be re-discovered at a later time.  He and Yeshe
Tso-gyal wrote the practices down and hid them in the elements and in
the pure nature of awareness - in the mind stream of his
disciples. This is the true origin of my connection to Tantra.
Padmasambhava created what is called a Mind Mandate Seal and hid
teachings on Tantra's skillful means like a timed-release
capsule. When my own practice matured to the point where it was
appropriate this force of wisdom opened.  The force, power and bliss
of it was released also, even though I had completely forgotten this
connection.

R: So you really didn't have any contact with Tibetan lamas, or the
Nyingma (Padmasambhava's) lineage, yet your teaching is very much
influenced by Tantra and you recognize Padmasambhava as your root
Guru. Without any contact with the lineage, you're kind of a wild card
as a teacher.

P: (Laughing uproariously) Yeah, I am a wild card as a Tantric
Master. But even wilder than this crazy connection with Tantra is that
I am free. Free of birth and death, fear, anxiety, worry. Free beyond
being and non-being. Free to do anything. And I just might - and it's
a wonderful thing!
     A wild card like me who has awakened into and embodied the heart
of Tantric practice is unique in terms of the trans-cultural migration
of Tantra to the West.  Padmasambhava was a wild guy because he was
the freedom and bliss of this mysterious reality. Those who awaken to
their true nature are the same one - though in their own unique
appearance. As Tantra develops in this culture, many aspects of its
form are going to have to change.  At the same time this must be done
in such a way as to not damage the teachings. This is a job of great
delicacy. These changes need to be done by someone who stands outside
the traditional lineages yet respects the heart drop of the teachings
with extreme reverence..
   All Tantric practice originates from Pure Vision revelation.
Tantric practices in the Buddhist form originate from the
Sambhogakaya, or the Visionary Bliss Realm of reality. An advanced
practitioner can receive teachings from this source though it is very
rare. An awakened master is this realm - it is an aspect of their
body.
   It is certainly reasonable to be skeptical, and I ask my
students not to accept anyone's teachings on blind faith, but to test
them in the laboratory of their own body/mind.  The faith needed to
have a Tantric relationship to a Spiritual Master has to develop over
a long period of time.  You can't simply jump right into it. There
must be testing on both sides - time and deeds. I certainly am mad by
any standard. You and I don't live in even remotely similar worlds. I
know the universe to be my body, time itself to be my subtle form, and
the sky of deathless awareness to be my mind.  My interest now is to
spark this awakening in others, not to have them fixate on me. That
would only destroy their growth and in the long or short run cause
them to hate me. We all hate what we are dependent on - no one likes
to be a slave.
   You should take a little time before hopping into the Dharma bed
because once in it there really is no such thing as safe sex. Think
about it as carefully as you would a marriage partner. It can take
years.
   There is a safety catch: You don't receive advanced
Tantric practices in the beginning anyway.  You begin with the
pre-preliminary practices, which in our community are a series having
to do with developing stability in body, mind and emotion at the
ordinary psychological level.  You can use the traditional meditations
on loving kindness, and exchanging oneself for others. These styles of
meditation work very deeply.  At the same time, I might suggest that
somebody seek out therapy, or work in a Twelve Step program.
   If you are obsessed with anxiety, fear, worry, comparison,
shame, self doubt, body doubt, sex doubt, then those things become
your center of gravity.  The constant effort to compensate for the
pain of neurosis saps you of the joy of ordinary life and the energy
for spiritual evolution. In this state of being, people try to replace
the work neededto develop an authentic center of gravity with the
Master or God - as if some external could be it for you. This must be
outgrown.
   Next there are the extraordinary Tantric preliminaries involving
Prostrations, Vajrasattva practice, Mandala practice and Guru
Yoga. These are fairly traditional. This is not an assembly line to
enlightenment. Each person s path is unique and possibly very
different from this description. There are people in our community who
never work with the Tantric path at all, who work along other
lines. The extraordinary preliminaries however are profound
psycho-transformational methods weaving together body, emotion, energy
and mind to awaken latent potential.
   During this phase and after the preliminaries are finished students
begin to work with the energies of diety yoga and the radical
practices of Advaita and Mahasanti.  Another way I work with my
students is to send them to the best of the living masters from the
traditional lineages.  This broadens their view and them to test my
teaching, my style of teaching, and the authenticity of my
transmission in the context of those who are commonly acknowledged to
be Tantric Masters. Three wonderful Masters I send my disciples to are
Chagdud Tulku, Lama Tharchin, and Nkgapa Chogyam.

R: It doesn't sound like you're shy about letting your students go out
and experience other Masters.

P: Absolutely not!

R. That seems a bit unusual. Most people have a great fear of Gurus
entrapping them in dependency relationships. Sending disciples to
other masters seems like it would help cut through that.

P. It is necessary for two reasons.  One is that it cross-pollinates
the lineage.  This is one of the beautiful things about Tantra.  You
need the foundation of more than one master.  You need to receive the
special energies of transmission and empowerment from a variety of
skillful masters.  This cross-pollinates, just like in gardening; it
creates a stronger plant. There is one Guru in your heart and many in
the world. It is up to each person to figure out who their heart
connection is with.
   The other reason is, I am a wild card as far as Tantric teachings
go. I claim the authority to teach Tantra based on my own radical
awakening into non-dual awareness and my own Mind Mandate Transmission
from Padmasambhava. Such claims could easily be made by any idiot -
and often are. I want my students and disciples to have a strong
ground on which they can evaluate me and decide where our connection
will go. I would like my students who do Tantric practice to be able
to work with other masters so that they can come to a greater degree
of understanding of my work when evaluated in the context of the
traditional tantric practice.

R: It seems to me that there is a lot of information and books written
about sexual Tantra, and certainly more people are interested in that
than in other forms of Tantra. Perhaps they are seeking this bliss
courage that you mentioned earlier.  Do you think that people
practicing sex yoga are by and large serious Tantric practitioners?

P: Well, there's no point in judging other peoples' spiritual paths.
If your path is not authentic over time that becomes clear.
Traditionally, the use of sexuality in Tantra comes at a very
developed stage of the path. There is no sexual Tantra if one has not
transcended desire. Certainly a lot of people are trying to explore
and play with sexual energy, and that is great, and they are relating
it to the word Tantra because Tantra uses sexuality as part of the
path.  We live in a seemingly open and permissive culture that
actually is very uptight, prudish and provincial.  We hype neurotic
sense stimulation in order to sell everything from shampoo to
cars. Underneath, there is fear of everything genital.
   Tantra, however, is not about sexuality. It is about enlightenment.
Compared to the bliss force of your true nature, the pleasure of
orgasm is pretty puny. The teachings can be used to bring a certain
degree of ordinary balance to the psyche, including openness about
sexuality. That's a very good thing but let's not stop at the doorway!

R: Enjoying Tantra for the psychological help is good but no
substitute for radical absolute spiritual liberation.

P: Right.

R: You emphasize community and that is very interesting to me. I find
that many people these days want their practice to be a personal and
private part of their life. Relationships are hard and spiritual
practice is hard mixing the two seems like it could ease up the
process or complicate it.

P: For spiritual practice, community is of vital importance in our
culture. In traditional cultures the shock that broke one out of
complacent patterns came from moving out of a community that had been
the center of one s life.  In our culture, we have just the opposite
senario. The shock here is brought about when people move into
community from the isolated lives that our culture creates. This was
central to the Gurdjieff system and very powerful.

R: That sense of isolation we have as a culture is very sad.

P: It is very sad - heartbreaking!  As you grow and mature in sadhana
you need to test your growth in daily life, in job, in relationship,
and in the community of other practitioners. There are of course
exceptions to this, people who need solitude for their practice to
grow strong, and there are practices which require prolonged solitude
for accomplishment.  Right now I am discussing with the community the
formation of a Hermitage center for long term intensive retreats.
This is very important if we re going to actually manifest the higher
levels of practice and destroy the tyranny of ordinary appearance.
   We must be careful that the higher and highest levels of Tantric
practice do get transmitted. The loss of these great methods is a real
danger.  There is a danger to the traditional forms of Tantra because
the cultures of Tantric practice are being decimated by war or
westernization, the cult of scientism. I think in our culture there is
a different threat: That the deeper levels of practice will not be
reached to begin with. In our culture the threat is that Tantra will
be stillborn. Practitioners will have to break through the cult of
TV. mentality and mediocrity into the dignity of their Vajra natures
if Tantra is to take root here and flower in its fullness.

R: There might not be enough students who have the basics down and
then move into the deeper levels of practice.

P: Right.  As Tantric practice takes root in our culture it is
important that there be an understanding of the vastness of
possibilities that Tantra offers. Waking up into the bliss-mad realm
of the perfect union of perception and pure pleasure is really quite
something. It is better than what people are dreaming up in the sex
workshops.
   For one who is awake, the relationship to the world, to the
elements, is completely different than for anybody else.  We have to
be able to move into the really magical and wondrous forms of
transformational practice where you are working not only with your own
body/mind at its most subtle levels, but the elements themselves. That
level of awakening needs to be realized It s power needs to be applied
to the culture and the actual ground upon which we live. To work at
these levels - the beginning levels and the most advanced levels,
which bring radical awakening or enlightenment - to work with all of
these is the real gift that Tantra brings.  The gift is that we can
encompass the whole of our lives, from the ordinary to the most
wondrous, in a single path.

R: Which is quite a feat.

P: It is!  The Tantric yogi, who can live married with children, a
completely ordinary life, but at the same time play with the world as
an ornament of awareness, is really something! To recognize all
appearance as the ornament of your own wisdom nature and to live in
the bliss-mad realm of freedom where all perception is delight: That
is the goal of Tantra.

R: Thank you.

P: Remember we are talking here about your birthright. Awakening is
your birthright. Accept your inheritance!




      For information on retreats, meditation classes
      and other programs at Crazy Cloud Hermitage:
             e-mail: info@flamingjewel.org
             phone:  (734) 741-1084
             write:  Crazy Cloud Hermitage
                     P.O. Box 8392
                     Ann Arbor, MI 48107



  Copyright 1994, Crazy Cloud Dharma Center. Permission is granted
to freely copy and distribute this booklet in unaltered form.