For most of us, we are likely familiar with terms like 'awakening', 'moksha', 'freedom', 'enlightenment', 'liberation', etc. In this post, we are exploring the path of awakening in Non-Dual Tantra.
Traversing such a path brings us not only to know our True Self but to embody our spiritual understanding and function in the world with a stable peace and illuminated clarity.
There are 3 stages of understanding which we will present, but it is important to know that this path is not necessarily 1, 2, 3. It is not a linear exploration. We may have a glimpse into stage 1, then stage 3, then deepen in stage 1, and open up to aspects of stage 2. Like this, it is more of an oscillation and continuous deepening into these 3 aspects of awakening. It can be helpful however to lay it out in this way so we can conceptually understand what it is we are speaking about.
Stage 1: Shiva Consciousness
Shiva is that part of ourselves that is beyond the body, beyond the mind, beyond the emotions. The part of ourselves that’s able to say “I am”.
There is a sense of existence here.
It doesn’t require being attached to your name, gender, body, ethnicity, age, etc. in order to exist. This part of yourself is there before these stories.
In Tantra, we refer to this part of ourselves as Shiva Consciousness, the unmanifest, or the Infinite. So this stage of awakening is recognizing ourselves as Shiva Consciousness.
This can be done through a variety of practices that bring us to know ourselves not as an individual person with struggles and goals, but as the witness to all these changing experiences.
These practices include Self Inquiry (asking “Who am I?”) and Neti Neti (coming closer to our witness consciousness by seeing what we are not. I am not the body, I am not the mind, for I perceive these things).
Again this stage does not necessarily come first, but it can be helpful to establish ourselves as witness consciousness.
Stage 2: Shakti Recognition
Shakti is then that aspect of ourselves that is manifest, that seems limited. When we say, as a limited being, “I am hungry” “I am a good person” "I am a doctor" etc. It can be understood as our individuality and all the things around us which have an appearance in the world.
All the houses we live in one day will no longer be houses, but they will return to the earth. Thoughts present themselves and later dissolve. This is all part of Shakti. We could say that all the material, all energy, our emotions, and thoughts are all part of Shakti’s realm. If it can be perceived, it is Shakti.
So then in this second stage, we come back into the world of body, mind, emotions, manifest, with a new and illuminated perspective. We learn to operate in the world as fully functional beings but with the knowledge of our Self at the same time. We see ourselves as Witness Consciousness weaved into and at the background of all experiences.
We can also understand this stage through the example of sound. Let’s say you’re experiencing a sound. You can contemplate “how can this sound exist without consciousness?” There is no way I could have this experience of a body that hears or of a sound that is heard without consciousness.
Every time I meet an experience, I find Consciousness is embedded in it. Awareness is there. How could the world possibly be anything other than Consciousness? Other than my Self?
Awareness, Consciousness is not enveloped in the body for we are aware of people across the room, sounds outside the house, aware of the existence of countries across the world.
We can practice this through outward-facing inquiry (how could this exist without me as Consciousness?). We can also practice in more traditional Tantrik ways which are where we see the introduction of kundalini and working with māntra (sacred sound), yantra (sacred shape), and yajña (sacred fire ceremony). These open us up to and help us cultivate and embody this divine Shakti. We are also then able to rest stronger in Shiva Consciousness.
Working with Shakti improves our concentration and focus. The energy in our mind and body is more stabilized. As we build this Shakti energy within ourselves, we also start to lose this “got it lost it” feeling of having a glimpse of Truth and then feeling like we have fallen away from it. There is stability in our knowing; a power to be able to hold this recognition consistently.
Stage 3: Union of Shiva and Shakti
The third stage is the most difficult to discuss but is essentially the collapsing of these two concepts into each other. There is no longer the witness and that which is witnessed; the experiencer and the experience. These concepts merge into a fully non-dual understanding.
Just like the ocean, in the beginning, we may only see ourselves as an individual wave but then we come to realize we are the whole ocean! And then we come back and recognize we are also every single wave. You cannot be the ocean without also being every wave. Similarly, you are a vibrant and ecstatic person (Shakti/wave) but you are also infinite Consciousness (Shiva/ocean).
Another example is a canvas and a painting. Shiva is like the blank canvas, the background. Shakti is like the paint, the artwork. Both need each other in order to exist but the artwork does not exist in two separate places, they are intrinsically linked as one. This third stage of awakening is a complete union of Shiva and Shakti.
This is something we cannot talk about too much as it is very experiential. We trust the ancient scriptures and our teachers when they say this can happen. This is an experience that can be.
Some will say we have this experience in moments throughout life. Like when we climb a mountain and are awe-struck at the beauty, or hold our child for the first time. There is a complete appreciation for the beauty of life and at that moment we are tasting our True Nature.
Maybe we experience this union once in meditation but by continuing on the path, resting as your Self, building Shakti, this recognition becomes constant throughout your life instead of small pieces here and there.
Traverse the non-dual Tantrik path of awakening with Artemis & Bhairav as they guide you through experiential practices, philosophical talks, the mythology of Shiva and Shakti, potent meditations, and much more.
Our online Tantra Meditation course helps you establish yourself as Shiva Consciousness, build Shakti energy, and embody their union in the world.
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