by Babaji Bob Kindler
"In the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Truth), Sankhya provides the cosmological structure, Vedanta, the uncompromising and unalloyed Truth of indivisible Existence, Knowledge and Bliss, and Tantra and Yoga offer and define the method and the practice. All of the above, together, represent the consummate path and way."
Vedanta, the conclusion of the Vedas, with its broad and vast scope of spiritual treasure, comprises the Upanishads — revelations received by ancient Rishis while plunged in profound states of subtle awareness. Yet, the Rishis were not Vedantists by way of method. What they received and passed on is pure nondual Truth, unencumbered by the mention of a path or a way.
We are hard put to find anything resembling a practice in the Upanishads, and instead draw back in awe to contemplate essential, pearl-like statements which are assertions of the existence of something so full and expansive that It defies description by any system of spiritual discipline. Measuring ourselves up against the capacious expanse of that eternal Truth, however, we soon find how far we have to go, how far we have fallen from the ideal, and how much nonessential weight we need to shed in order to maintain ourselves in the pure light of this pristine atmosphere. This assessment both implies and begins the process called sadhana, the phases of discipline so necessary to the lives of those who suffer the embodied condition, subject to Maya.
"The children of Sri Ramakrishna are Vaidikas in essence, Tantrikas by path and process."
Throughout its existence, those of us who are members and friends of SRV have begun studies in Tantra, a broad and honorable system that, by all indications, is as old as the Vedas and which existed side by side with them throughout history. This study has been initiated after years of hearing and studying the Vedantic truths so crucial to our basic comprehension. These two great streams, the Vaidika and the Tantrika, often treated independently of each other and as foreign to one another, are, in the age of the Kali Avatar, receiving a welcome reconciliation and integration.
For instance, if we study the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find that though He taught the truths contained in the Upanishads, He illustrated these principles to us by methods that are Tantric in origin and content. His worship of and devotion to Mother Kali, Sri Krishna, Mother Sita, Lord Chaitanya, Lord Shiva, and others, reveal His wonderful Tantric nature and point to the many ways of practicing the Vedic truths. The lineage and religion we follow, then, are replete with the presence and images of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapati and, importantly, Sri Durga and Sri Kali, the Divine Mother of the Universe. Therefore, if we carefully integrate the life and message of Sri Ramakrishna, we arrive at an amazing insight: The children of Sri Ramakrishna are Vaidikas in essence, Tantrikas by path and process.
Let us look at the great ones who represent the respected darshanas — systems of revelation that have influenced us and kept us close to God over many centuries. The great Rishi Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi of Vedic fame, Agastya and wife Lopamudra who were initiates of the Divine Mother path, Durvasa who taught Sri Krishna the sixty-four Advaita Kalas, Dattatreya the great sage and yogi who was devoted to the Divine Mother, Sanatkumar, Dadhichi, Visvamitra and others-all were Tantric practitioners.
Whereas it is interesting to note that most of these Vedic seers were married practitioners, it is no less revealing to look at the Advaita Vedanta era of Sri Adishankaracharya. Though he was equally an exponent of the Vedantic lore, it must be recognized that he, his guru, and his Paramaguru, Gaudapada and Govindapada, were devotees and worshipers of the Mother of the Universe, what to speak of Lord Shiva, and are therefore Tantric adepts as well. Though the Vaidik monastic stream is strong there, no less than nine of Shankara's fourteen direct disciples were not only householders, but adherents of the Tantric Samayachara Shiva/Shakti path, like their guru and Paramaguru.
"We do not 'become enlightened' by Vedanta, strictly speaking, for it is not a path, but a statement of Absolute Truth."
We are Vedantists, as Swamiji foresaw and provided for, but our path is also Tantric. We do not "become enlightened" by Vedanta, strictly speaking, for it is not a path, but a statement of Absolute Truth. Even its "neti, neti" aspect is less method than pure self-will coupled with realization, and so is suited for jnanis as a way of remaining free of bondage, detached and equanimous. The path and the way, the processes by which we get illumined, lie in Tantra. We may make the assertion that Yoga is our path as well-and that is true, but it must be recognized that Yoga emerges from the Tantric stream. Yoga, far from being the caricature of the same that is practiced only as a physical, body-oriented system today, is intrinsically connected with the ascetic, Lord Shiva, and finds its higher expressions there and in the Kundalini Yoga of Shaktism and Shaivism. In Vaishnavism, the revered Sri Krishna presents pure Yoga in many practicable forms in various chapters of the Bhagavad Gita while, as direct method, it emerges as Patanjala, with its well-defined and beneficial content.
Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra owe much of their basis and growth to the Sankhya philosophy which enumerates the twenty-four cosmic principles as a basis for the universal manifestation. This steady foundation assisted in the presentation of the life-giving, life-saving, life-transforming declarations of the Vedas. Due to this structure, Tantra gave birth to the many wonderful methods through which to realize the Truth contained in the Vedas and over time graced the system with twelve more powerful principles (tattvas) of a higher and purer order. After the Samkhya was well established, the great and revered Patanjali was able to more readily produce and propound his Yoga Sutras, providing another well-defined pathway containing numerous tools capable of clearing away all impediments which hamper human beings in their quest for Truth.
"...in Sanatana Dharma, Sankhya provides the cosmological structure, Vedanta, the uncompromising and unalloyed Truth of indivisible Existence, Knowledge and Bliss, and Tantra and Yoga offer and define the method and the practice."
To conclude, in Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Truth), Sankhya provides the cosmological structure, Vedanta, the uncompromising and unalloyed Truth of indivisible Existence, Knowledge and Bliss, and Tantra and Yoga offer and define the method and the practice. All of the above, together, represent the consummate path and way. This, clearly comprehended and rightly lived, forms the "New Dispensation" of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.
In our continuing understanding of what we are molding our lives around, which will lead us from words, images, symbols, meanings, and modes of worship, right on up to the beauteous vision of the incomparable Faces of the Blessed Lord and Mother of the Universe, we must refrain from seeing things only in a historical context. We must also desist from judging things only on a moralistic basis, and from the often onerous standpoint of superior and inferior. Lastly, exacting and sterile analysis alone should not form the only purpose for involving ourselves in a quest for Truth, for Truth dwarfs and transcends this process. In fact, Truth is not a process or a path. It is the very divine atmosphere of the Blessed One with whom we seek to unite. As my guru, Swami Aseshananda, used to tell us, "If we knew our essential nature as Truth, we would have little need for spiritual disciplines."
"...Truth is not a process or a path. It is the very divine atmosphere of the Blessed One with whom we seek to unite."
Since this is not the case, and we do need to reverse the ill effects of this age of ignorance and its accompanying delusion, we should study Tantra with its powerful methods and effects. [see article on Maya and Its Evolutes, Issue #1, Nectar of Nondual Truth.] How to effect the mind's deification of the world as Paramashiva is the salient feature of the Tantric path, so it is well-suited to this age where beings have forgotten that both they and the earth upon which they live are nothing less than expressions of Brahman's perfection.
Sri Ramakrishna defines Maya as "man's ego." This is maya in the individual. Regarding the Cosmic maya, when we see it entirely as what it is, neither wholly positive or negative, it will flee from us. Therefore, we must, from our present position, first recognize Maya, and this means seeing it in both its individual form and its cosmic form. Conscious practice of the Tantric way brings us to a pure state where the Divine Mother of the Universe — the Mahavidya Mahamaya Bhagavati Durga Devi who wields the various powers of Maya — will remove the cosmic dust from our inner vision, opening our Wisdom Eye to Ultimate Reality Itself. Thus will That which the Vedanta proclaims be realized by all. As one Sufi saint has marveled, "When I plucked the fruit of realization from the branch of spiritual practice, I found that the entire tree was within me."