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
Click here to read Chapter One in Sutra Journal
MY INITIATION INTO THE TANTRIC PATH
Tantra is my life path in the sense that I embraced its qualities quite innocently in the most natural way. From a young age it was obvious that I was
destined for the unknown. I did not carry the beliefs of most others and was at home in my own inner world. This did not mean that I was withdrawn or shy.
On the contrary I was very involved in dance, athletic sports, gymnastics and enjoyed the beauty of outdoors. It was easy for me to communicate with most
people but from inside I felt different than how I felt most others. Being very sensitive to thoughts of others and able to feel their feelings, I
generally preferred to remain happily in my own company. This deep sensitivity and inner completeness were the sanskaras, or carry over from my previous
lifetime as a yogini. These sanskaras are an all-important determining factor that moves each of us in different directions with our varying strengths and
At around 14 years of age I had a full-bodied visitation from the Ascended master Meru who answered the inner question I had as to why I was with my
particular family. He appeared during the day in the corner of the room, where I was alone, and introduced himself as my true father. This master is also
known as the wisdom deity Garab Dorje in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and was one of my inner teachers who had charge of my life and whom were silently
By twenty-five years of age I was ready to meet my first living teacher. I had left the ideas of any worldly career and had no material ambitions to
fulfil. I was living a simple reclusive life in the bush of New Zealand, was vegetarian, and daily practiced hatha yoga, self-taught meditation and
contemplation. I also had a beautiful one-year-old son who was the joy of my life. During my pregnancy I had received a powerful visitation from the
ascended master Koothumi who gave me prophecy concerning my son’s birth and destiny, and he inspired me to continue my spiritual journey. During this time,
another living teacher came in my dreams and told me “I knew what I had to do.”
After reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” whilst pregnant I realized Mahavatar BabaJi as my root Guru and it was to him that I directed my prayer for a
living master. Instinctively I knew a living master would be my salvation and was essential for my enlightenment. This is confirmed in many scriptures and
finding one’s true teacher is seen as the beginning of the path of no return. Without this full-hearted yearning and eventual blessing of an enlightened
teacher, one does not receive the transmissions of lineage to enable them to overcome ignorance. There are many who try to do the spiritual path without
the physical teacher these days, but who will not achieve liberation.
When my son was almost one-year-old I was inwardly directed to go to a hatha yoga ashram in the city. So without any agenda my son and I went. Here I
gardened, helped to prepare meals, took my son to play-center, and enjoyed the time with approximately six others and an elderly yoga teacher who owned the
large home and two acres. Approximately two months later a sannyasin from India arrived. This sannyasin’s tantric master, who lived in a remote region of
northern India, had inwardly become aware of me and sent him to New Zealand to find me. The sannyasin was on a mission to establish Bhakti yoga of Krishna.
He showed me a photo of the master, whom he called a bhakti master and I knew this teacher to be my next step. What I had not anticipated or even
considered is that I would go alone and have to give up my son for some time. When the swami said “you will have to come to India without your son,” I was
devastated. As a solo mother I had to have extra strength to be able to look after both of us, he was in many ways my reason to find great joy in every day
and I did not wish to be without him even for a few hours.
…. This was my first taste of the sacrifices that I would continue to have to make on this spiritual journey that was much bigger than the individual me. I
had to find that place inside that took me beyond the boundaries that had defined me previously as Sandra (my birth name.) Welcome to Tantra - this is what
I meant when saying that I innocently found tantra. It is more true to say that tantra found me. The ego self died as I realized the decision had already
been made by me as soul. There was no compromise of the highest choice from then on and this was the first of many deaths to pass through on my journey to
We need to see all the things that we hold on to are in fact based on impermanence, such as attachment to form, fear, doubt, anger, pride, jealousy etc.;
all these are manifestations of conditioned mind, limited seeing and the illusion. The sacrifices that are needed and the disciplines that are embraced,
determine tantra to be a path for few. After a few months of agonizing knowingness that I was to leave my son, some true friends of mine decided they would
become legally married to feel qualified as a couple that could care for my son. They came to the city to ask if this would be okay with me. This was the
grace that six months later allowed the parting of my son, now two years of age, and me to occur. He stayed in the community where we had previously been
together. I was comforted by the fact that it was a place of great natural beauty abundant with the peace and blessings of nature.
The Tantric master in India was my first introduction to a fully enlightened being. He was, in my eyes, a divine manifestation.
India in its totality was and still is for me a completely sacred experience. I doubt that many have this immediate transformation upon entering India, yet
in India I am home in a unique way. India has been held under a blessing presence of all the enlightened yogis who have appeared on this continent for
thousands of years and it is where I have lived sacredly in many lifetimes. I experienced this feeling of sacredness from almost every person that I
encountered there, even those materially impoverished were spiritually rich carrying a deep inner peace that comes from a love of and surrender to life as
In this sacred environment I spontaneously went into deep surrender and “no mind.” I became deeply silent desiring only divine vision, and the ability to
receive and embody radiance of the illumined eternalness.
I arrived at the master’s ashram in the late afternoon in a bullock drawn cart that was the only transportation from the train station approximately four
miles away. My train journey from Delhi had already put me into culture shock though I did not realize for a few years that culture shock was an actual
condition. The master came out from the very large compound that could accommodate a few hundred devotees to greet me personally. It was an instantaneous
recognition on both our sides that I had come home. In his own language he directed some lady devotees to give me a small room of my own at the back of the
hall where he gave satsang daily during several months of the year. Set a few hundred yards away from the hall was the main house where the master’s family
The master had inherited a large estate and had many acres, which produced crops, grown by local villagers who leased land from him. He held an important
position in the district and was obviously revered by many for a number of reasons. His spiritual stature was overwhelmingly obvious, and both his inner
and outer beauty stopped people in their tracks. He stood much taller than most Indians and I saw the influence of many cultures in his features. He
appeared timeless and ageless, and there were many times that, as I watched him walking, I was certain that his feet did not touch the ground. All was in
divine order here and I was in heaven. Skeptics and analytical philosophers could not undermine this grand Lila. Here I met Krishna with his lovers,
friends and devotees in this eternal kingdom.
Within twenty-four hours of being in my teacher’s presence I was in a high fever that lasted several weeks. With only one or two devotees who spoke English
I was silent most of the time and learned the tremendous value of this. In no way did this silence diminish the feelings of closeness with everyone there
and I received an abundance of loving care when I was too weak to look after myself. I was fed and bathed, and the master’s daughters would brush my long
hair and braid it daily. It was a blessing to surrender to all of this, and humbling also.
From the day I arrived my master drew me into his intimate radiance. He could make my fever rise and lower by the intensity of his attention towards me,
all of which was on a non-verbal level. This force of love blissfully immobilized me. There were no questions within me; instinctively I knew my entire
karmic residue was being purified in the fire of kundalini and I only knew love. Everyone was a participant in this divine play (Lila) of unspeakable
occurrences. As I became purified of all my conditioning and unenlightened activities in this lifetime, I became absorbed in ecstasy and barely able to
My master gave me the name Braj Gauri, which translated into English means fair skin maiden of Braj (the abode of Krishna). This was a great honor as
numerous devotees had been waiting for twenty or so years to receive a spiritual name from him. I had nothing to do except give up my individuality based
on ordinary appearances. Thus I overcame ordinary appearances and was given divine pure vision. I saw only One supreme light in all manifestations, and all
served the divine will and purpose. This transcendence is the sign of an accomplished practitioner, yet I was simply a lover of the eternal beloved. Now
many years later I see the exceptional gift of grace that I was given. It is rare for one to have such an intense uninterrupted kundalini awakening, which
in my case lasted nine months. It often requires years of practice to overcome ordinary appearances and stabilize oneself in divine awareness.
In the ashram I was always treated with loving respect. One day I decided to sit and meditate some few hundred feet from the compound and a devotee kindly
advised me not to go out as snakes were common. I went anyway, not having ever feared snakes (in New Zealand there are no poisonous animals or insects.) I
sat in blissful repose for maybe thirty minutes and when I opened my eyes there were two cobras circling around me. It was a great honor for me to see
them, one lifted its head opened its hood and looked directly at me for what seemed an eternity. The cobras left in their own time after I had received
their blessing power. When I later told someone about it they were scared for me, yet I know fear is my enemy, not God’s creatures.
When I was able to eat again and had regained my strength, the master took me as his tantric consort. We became lovers in the most magical way. One of his
closest students would take me into a room in the house, which was always prepared with flowers and incense. All our time together was silent and
transmissions occurred heart to heart, mind-to-mind. My teacher showed me that I was a divine being with a divine destiny, not at all what we are normally
allowed to think about ourselves. He showed me the reality of our existence and the enlightened state without words. This revelation of love existed side
by side the pain that surfaced because I had left my son. I accepted all that I had to go through, and my teacher directed me to be alone when crying.
My practice was twenty-four hours a day because I was living with my teacher and his family. His wife would come into the room after we had made love and
would wash the master’s feet and put garlands of flowers around both our necks. I experienced each moment vividly as I became transformed in the company of
love. There was nowhere to hide anything. There was no sign of neurosis or struggle within this family, which seemed to have no boundaries. This showed me
that no person with doubt or an analytical mind could remain in an enlightened environment and be happy. What I wish to emphasize here is that the tantric
experience includes everything. It is a path of self-imposed self-aware intense disciplines for total liberation. The sexual intimacy that I experienced
intensified the stages of discipline and transformation; there can be no personal agenda in such a practice. I never gossiped with anyone about my time
with the master, it was far beyond words, and we had his wife’s blessings.
Inside the satsang hall our teacher would daily play Indian ragas and chants on the harmonium, drums and flute. He was gifted musically and also had a
beautiful singing voice. At these times he was in a state of ecstasy and many of the devotees would be in trance-like states. This was a remarkable event
to be part of and it maintained the sacredness throughout every day. People came and stayed for weeks at a time to receive the blessings and be near their
teacher. They were renewed yearly in this way.
One afternoon when a small group of us were sitting with our master listening to him sing and singing along, he pushed the harmonium in front of me and
gestured for me to play and sing alone. I was certain that I could not sing very well yet when I completely opened my heart I really could sing. It felt as
though he had put his voice inside me and blessed me to sing. From that day on I sang almost daily for two years with a harmonium that I purchased. Singing
became one of my great joys and I am grateful to this day for that inspiration that my teacher imparted. Most certainly it was this atmosphere of pure
devotion that permitted the master to demonstrate tantra in such a total way on so many levels. He outwardly presented himself as a Bhakti master, yet was
obviously a very advanced adept of Tantra, which he maintained as sacred transmission. The atmosphere of sacredness is all-important for any advanced
practitioner/teacher to give and receive transmission. All the devotees understood and honored this atmosphere.
I had to go to India to find such a setting where tantra was alive and I was reborn into my life’s path. I knew that I would have to leave India and bring
forth my own beloved. It was very difficult for me to leave my new home, and knowing I would be unable to share this experience with anyone made it more
difficult. Remember that I did not even know the word tantra consciously, yet from my soul’s knowingness I understood that the manifestation of the beloved
was my path.
Life times of yogic preparation had brought me to India and into such a total experience at a relatively young age. Due to the readiness of my soul I let
go of everything to embrace tantra and receive extraordinary teachings. This is why tantra is only for a few. Who would want to jump into the abyss so
Every aspect of my life was measured against this initial nine-month transformation. From then on my life as a tantric yogini was intense, mystical,
blessed and very tough! For the next twelve years I was moved dramatically and constantly, staying no longer than a year in each place, some of the time
being a mother and sometimes not. My son continued to move in and out of my life according to higher law. He has his own powerful destiny and completion’s
just as I had my completion’s and further teachings. For further growth I took on additional daily yoga practices including dynamic movements and internal
practice of kriya yoga. These practices were my lifeline to the divine and essential for continuous integration of spiritual knowledge. They also enable
the demanding path of tantra, the path of no escape that embraces every aspect of life, to flow and evolve gracefully.
My initial tantric initiation took me to a place where I was far removed from the everyday dramas of other people. My goal in life to be liberated from the
wheel of birth and death set me on a very alone journey to self-mastery. This has been for me one of the greatest blessings of the tantric path. My beloved
and I say now to others when they speak of difficulties with aloneness, that aloneness is “all-one” without the extra “L” which stands for Love. We grow to
learn to be happy with whatever is going on for us. To be free we must also be happy in our solitude to do real retreat so that we can embrace the
emptiness with joy, then we can participate with others in joy of our destined service.
Click here to read Chapter One in Sutra Journal