Alderman Islands on Shiva Full Moon from Coromandel Coast of New Zealand (photo by Virochana)
Editor’s Note: Shantara Khalsa is a Tantrika and Yogini who heard the call of Great Mother while growing up in her native New Zealand, and was called to India on numerous occasions to train and live with several highly developed masters. She has been teaching and practicing for forty-five years and currently divides her time between the Crestone mountains of Colorado, the island of Maui, and New Zealand. She shares her rich insights and a body of wisdom that could only come from walking the warrior's path and tasting the fruits of lifelong practice.
Sutra Journal brings you a chapter from her book Tantra Unveiled every month. She invites questions from readers for ongoing dialogue. Om
Read Previous Chapters in Sutra Journal
TRANSFORMING LIFE THROUGH TANTRA
As you read this book I trust you will gain confidence to enter the tantric path, or realize it is not for you, and hopefully you will come to understand
the value of tantra for the power that it is. Without exception Tantra can be the most dynamic transformative way to enlightenment and ultimately
ascension. The difference between enlightenment and ascension is that to become enlightened one does not have to create an eternal physical body. Ascension
is embodied enlightenment, and through the process of ascension we have the providence and drive to maintain and transform the body into an eternal radiant
form. Many of the ascended masters that are our teachers have physically achieved this. What most people currently understand as ascension is in truth
enlightenment. A Buddha is one who has not only experienced enlightenment, but they are fully present in the enlightened state at all times, which is to
say, within and as form.
I am blessed to say that I write this book from direct personal experience, rather than from anyone else’s perspective or from within the
flavored context of religious scriptures and writings. Tantra was given to me totally in the raw, there was no buffer of dialogue or organization and that
is how I see it remaining as an eternal mystical path.
I say this firmly believing that it is not through the study of books or following a prepared system that we come to liberation but rather through dynamic
self-motivation, pure practice and the hard knocks of life’s sometimes seemingly non-compassionate ways. The hardships are our wake-up calls and we can
take them as cues to become a warrior.
Life is always a mix of ease and suffering, many of us experience life as suffering from the moment of a difficult birth and are imprinted to expect
suffering along the way. We see suffering daily in some form and the choices we make determine us to be spiritual warriors or not. If we crumble under
hardship we become victims, carrying blame in our excess baggage. If we go along with demeaning unrighteous acts, we become one of the masses of
unenlightened humanity, one of the crowd and a slave to the status quo. If we become angry we can become a rebel with a cause, trying to change things
outwardly and easily fall into self-righteousness and ego related limitations. In these choices we remain in the trap of unenlightened activity and what I
call “survival mode.”
Alternately there is the choice of transcendence that leads to enlightenment and freedom. This was the choice I made at 23 years and never looked back.
This is the way of the spiritual warrior and “tantra is the true path that never says die.” From the beginning of tantra the warrior knows from the highest
level of no doubt that they have won, for the warrior has chosen to go beyond the opposites, beyond the polarities, nothing to gain and nothing to lose. As
I say “when you don’t bite the bait you are off the hook.” Tantra hangs on to no goals, it is beyond hope and hopelessness, beyond the rules of scriptures.
In this realm the saint can be judged bad and the murderer can be a saint.
Lake Rotopounamu in New Zealand (photo by Virochana)
The razor’s edge is what tantra is held together by. Madness is often at the door; only grace, purity, and the right teacher can get you through to the
other side. Madness in this context means that which is not rational, a possible recipe for disaster, when viewed from the status quo where it is not
healthy to rock the boat. This intuitive spontaneous, impulsive behavior comes from our feminine essence, and is often judged by our male essence, which
thrives on stability and structure. However, the enlightened being does not live to please the insecure realities or neuroses of others and does not bow to
being controlled. It is more true to say madness arises when there is a need to always feel in control in life. Very fine threads hold the fabric of one’s
life together and they often break in their use, within the universe (one mind).
As an example, consider a moment within your life that can potentially become a turning point, or opportunity. You are in your “comfort zone,” meaning life
seems under control, you have a paying job, good place to live, and plenty of time to socialize. Out of the blue there arises a pull to go to, say, Nepal,
a sense that there is something strong there for you. To go you have to leave for an unknown amount of time all your security, and your girlfriend or
boyfriend, maybe even husband or wife will never understand. What do you do? A person without tantric orientation would probably spend months or years
waiting for all the conditions to be ripe. A tantrika would just go. We can understand where we are coming from by these choices, and these
moment-to-moment choices say everything about our priorities and how we see life.
I always moved “now,” and was always guided to do so. Some judged me as uncaring in these choices and I pleased few. My beloved inner teachers helped me.
Having such a Tantric eternal master as Mahavatar BabaJi, also known as Padmasambhava, the great teacher who brought the inner tantras to Tibet in the
eighth century, enabled me to do the unthinkable without thinking. Personally I would not advise an unprepared person to jump into tantra; it would be like
sending a lamb to the lion. However, if a vital, young and spiritually mature person that had enlightenment as their only priority, along with good karma
and love of practices, asked me for advice, I would definitely encourage them to become a warrior on the tantric path. Most of us need the purification and
stabilization of foundational practices before taking the quantum leap into tantra.
These leaps of faith, for that is what they are, are a consistent occurrence on the tantric path as we are asked to go beyond our comfort zone into our
stretch zone, sometimes even into our panic zone. The tantrika is always flying high without a safety net, and burning bridges along the way. A mature
practitioner needs to know how to complete karmic limitation and transform themselves through skillful means. These skillful means are time proven
practices, techniques and penetrating vision that help show the way through. Virochana and I say there are two ways to deal with karmic obstacles, one is
skillful means, the other is in the drama that comes with karmic participation. Meditative skillful means with insightful vision is the quick way and outer
drama the slow way. This does not mean that we avoid relationships and other completions; rather we totally embrace our completions more consciously.
With pure intention and passion along with daily yogic discipline we are moved to see our limitations in relationships more clearly and quickly. With this
heightened level of self-honesty, we can no longer play “let’s pretend” and our passion for enlightenment moves us out of karmic participation, because we
quickly move on and set all beings free with Love. Love sets everything free and what remains is pure Love. In this intensity we step out of our comfort
zone and into the unknown, and in so doing, grow into our life’s true purpose. Thus we do not settle for second best, even if it involves our weekly
In tantra we are knowingly on the fast track to liberation, and everyday choices lead us to greater awareness and freedom. This is such a subtle
knowingness that comes from within. It requires much letting go and a total trust of your own inner being. I believe tantra is ultimately a feminine path
and only able to be applied when we have this total trust in our intuitive feminine essence. Without the integration of our female and male essences we
cannot generate the nectars that make a divinely sourced tantric body.
Most certainly tantra will transform your life completely, but you must be willing to do the journey, you must be ready to surrender to all conditions, for
without surrender there is no recognition, no release, no transcendence. As such you must be a strong practitioner, a yogini or yogi who can move energy,
one who is not stuck, and one who can deal with constant change.
This residing in the unknown ultimately becomes known as the emptiness or Oneness. For many years the only constant in my life were my yogic practices. In
this training the practices are our best allies, our lifeline to divine life. They never let us down and instill a sense of purpose. Our practices give
clarity, increase our penetration and make us stronger by revealing our weak spots, which we then work on. Thus a tantrika enjoys the fitness of their body
and they are also crisp, sharp, having lots of awareness to overcome obstructions. The tantrika is both soft and strong, has earned freedom of movement and
expression, and able to use emotion as a strength. The freeing of emotions brings great intuition, and applied meditatively, brings inner vision. As
emotions are purified vision becomes pure vision, an intrinsic part of our eternal Buddha nature.
Thus tantra becomes you and you become a tantrika. You bring this great gift of total commitment to the path and the path brings you tantra. Tantra puts
you in the deep end of experience. When you are in the deep end you know you can never again swim with all your power in the shallows. Once tasted, the
deep end is the best place to be. Tantra will keep you in these depths and the journey is endless, as my beloved and I say, there is no way out but
through. We become one with the ever expanding perfection.