Hello. This is a test.
As the winter weather insists on persisting, we thought it would be a good idea to revive this winter warmer – Immunity boosting porridge. Porridge is always a great choice and in this video, Inka explains how it can be both beneficial for your health and tasty. No excuse… get warmed up and boost your immunity naturally.
The immune system is the second line of defence the body has from attack. If the skin is breached we need a strong immune system to protect us.
We will be sharing book/movie recommendations from both our students and staff to inspire and help you go deeper in your spiritual journey…
This week, Daphne, our first year Tantra student from France shares her book recommendation with us – ‘You can heal your life’ by Louise Hay
📚 Why do you recommend this book?
It very simply explains a way of thinking that can be transformational to develop self-love and raise your expectations in life. It is a supportive companion for those working on freeing themselves from resentment / guilt / self-criticism. Short chapters, meditations and exercises help to integrate Louise’s ideas.
In the last part of the book, Louise tells us about her personal story and her suffering. She writes about what brought her to her philosophy and how she has been applying it to her own life. I find her genuine in her desire to share her message. I also loved hearing the warmth of her voice on different materials uploaded on Youtube.
📚 Who is this book for?
Anyone who wants to develop more self-care, self-love and faith in themselves / the Universe.
📚 Book blurb:
If you can change your thinking, you can change your life. That is the central idea of this book, a classic ‘self-help’ book written in 1984 by motivational author Louise Hay.
According to Louise, what we get from the Universe reflects the thoughts we believe about ourselves and about life. In other words, our thoughts create our experiences. This is empowering because we can create the very thoughts that will bring about the change we want to see in our life.
It starts with awareness of our negative thought patterns, which Louise argues always stem from a lack of self-love. Louise guides her readers through exercises to release self-limiting beliefs and to help us to forgive the past. As we ‘clean our mental house’, she encourages us to form new thoughts and beliefs by practising daily affirmations. She generally invites us to bring more love in all areas of our life (relationships, work, money…).
Louise’s message is really one of love: for ourselves, others and the Universe that ‘flows through us’. In that sense, it echoes some ideas from the Tantric path.
📚 Favourite inspirational extracts
‘I support myself, and life supports me. All is well in my world.’
‘The Universe totally supports us in every thought we choose to think and believe.
What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you.
The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and a thought can be changed.
The point of power is always in the present moment.
Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the keys to positive changes.
Every thought we think creates our future.
When we really love ourselves, everything in our life works.’
Have you read this book?
Let us know what you think and send us a message if you would like to recommend a book or movie for us!
I support myself, and life supports me. All is well in my world.’
The Way of the Siddha
The way of the Siddha is said to be revealed in Kali Yuga, when people are not able to follow other paths. A sign of Kali Yuga is the impatience of the disciple, and the unwillingness to live through eons of rebirths before attaining liberation, wanting immediate results.
What takes most time on the path to perfection is the purification of the mind, the eradication of vices and inferior passions, and the cultivation of virtue and clarity. In Tantra. all experiences become a fuel in the process of transmutation through inner alchemy, that empowers transformation. The process is faster in this way, but also more “dangerous”, as there is no separation of experiences into good or bad as such – both are considered a source of energy. Even apparently negative or tempting states can be turned into the nectar of superior states of consciousness though the processes of inner alchemy. But the inherent temptation in different life experiences requires an uncompromising inner attitude, so that we do not become lost, and forget our aim of self revelation. Instead, there should be a lucid practice of inner alchemy and the elevation of the consciousness, in every life experience.
The “danger” of this path is justified by its efficacy, but guidance is needed. Otherwise, the equal attitude before “good and bad” can easily become an excuse that leads us astray, to be lost in pleasure and temptation.
On the siddha path, things that would normally be considered obstacles on the path of transformation, because of distraction or temptation, become tools and opportunities. Here we can mention the sexual energy, unexpected disturbances, fascinations, desires…
The Tantric Path
This is an approach characteristic of the Tantric path. The Tantras were transmitted orally for hundreds of years before they began to be written down in the fifth century AD. We can only speculate who formed the early lineages. The Maha siddhas are the masters who shaped the Tantric path.
The Maha siddhas came from every walk of life. What bound them to Tantric yoga was their meeting with a spiritual guide, their initiation into a lineage of Tantric instruction and their practice of Tantric meditation.
The forms of their sadhana, their spiritual discipline, was as varied as their personalities. What they had in common was the attitude of a Tantrika; the aim to integrate their entire life into sadhana – a vow to selflessly devote their entire being to the non-dual experience of enlightenment and liberation. The siddhas developed their own methods of liberation, or release from samsara, that can be characterised as quick, demanding and often “dangerous”.
“The siddhas developed their own methods of liberation, or release from samsara, that can be characterised as quick, demanding and often “dangerous”.”
Tantra accepts eroticism as a valid means by which enlightenment or Maha mudra, “the great seal” can be attained, and several of the Maha siddhas embraced eroticism as part of their sadhana. The mistaken belief, however, that Tantra yoga is only sexual yoga is fostered by the frequent use of erotic analogies, metaphors and symbols in the Tantras, to describe different processes.
The concept of the ‘Absolute’ lies at the heart of the Tantras, giving the Maha siddhas their enormous spiritual energy, godly power and realisation. By its very nature, the Absolute is beyond thought – indefinable, indeterminable, without location – and is the source of everything.
The Maha siddhas path through life is an experience where the knower and the known become unified in the process of knowing – leading to the mystery of Maha mudra. The mystery can be conceived as a two in one union, where both unity and duality become one simultaneous and continuous peak experience. The erotic analogy of two lovers achieving a sense of complete oneness while still in their individual bodies is probably the best if not the only image that can express this mystery. The Maha siddha totally empathises with all beings through this union, giving him or her profound insight and prescience that allows the siddha to be able to guide others in sadhana.
The Maha siddhas are known for their craziness, their lack of emotional inhibitions and utter disregard for social convention – they are the holy madmen and women.
The Maha siddhas are known for their craziness, their lack of emotional inhibitions and utter disregard for social convention – they are the holy madmen and women.
Naropa is one of the more known and loved Mahasiddhas – not only was he an example of spiritual guidance but also a shining example of a disciple and of following guidance. His state of devotion, aspiration and determination was overwhelming and exemplary, and it allowed him to make great steps in a relatively short time.
There are varying accounts of the life of Naropa, but common to them all is his fervent search for his master Tilopa, and his impressive perseverance and commitment to the path.
From an early age, Naropa was devoted to spiritual matters. He was filled with compassion for all beings, and his primary interest was the study and practice of the buddhadharma. At the age of 28, in 1044, Naropa left worldly obligations and entered the monastic university of Nalanda. He became a renowned and well-respected teacher known for his intellectual powers, and was considered the premier teacher of Buddhism of his time.
Around the age of 40 an event occurred that was to bring Naropa onto the Tantric path. While reading he had a vision of a dakini in the shape of a very ugly woman. She told him that he understood only the words of his book, and not their real meaning. She also revealed that the only way for him to discover the real meaning was to seek a guru named Tilopa.
‘She said to Naropa, “What are you looking into?” “I study books on grammar, epistemology, spiritual precepts, and logic,” he replied. “Do you understand them?” “Yes.” “Do you understand the words or the sense?” “The words.” The old woman was delighted, rocked with laughter, and began to dance, waving her stick in the air. Thinking that she might feel still happier, Naropa added, “I also understand the sense.” But then the woman began to weep and tremble and she threw her stick down. “How is it that you were happy when I said that I understood the words, but became miserable when I added that I also understood the sense?” “I felt happy because you, a great scholar, did not lie and frankly admitted that you only understood the words. But I felt sad when you told a lie by stating that you understood the sense, which you do not.” “Who, then, understands the sense?” “My brother, Tilopa.” “Introduce me to him wherever he may be.” “Go yourself, pay your respects to him, and beg him that you may come to grasp the sense.” With these words, the old woman disappeared like a rainbow in the sky.”
– The Life and Teaching of Naropa, trans. Herbert V. Guenther (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 1986), pp. 24–25]
Upon hearing the name “Tilopa”, Naropa felt an intense state of devotion. Then and there he knew that Tilopa was his guru and that he would not rest until he had found him. Naropa immediately left the university in search of Tilopa and set out on a journey that would last for years and take him all over India following every hint, every whisper of where Tilopa might be. Naropa had to undergo what is called the twelve minor hardships or tests before finding his master; illusions that made his limitations obvious; confronting habit forming thought patterns, the need to develop unconditional compassion and cracking the ego shell, cutting the ties of Samsara, or illusion, Maya, and having a perfect detachment.
When Naropa finally found Tilopa and was accepted as his disciple the trials were not over. Tilopa was not friendly or forthcoming but often tough, demanding the most outrageous sacrifices and actions from Naropa. The first initiations were given after Tilopa showed Naropa different attitudes through the use of signs and symbols. For instance, Tilopa would hold a crystal in his hand and show it to Naropa and ask him what he understood. Naropa answered that he understood that the disciples mind should be completely pure; there should be no broken commitments in the relationship between teacher and student. Tilopa then handed Naropa a string full of knots and asked him to untie them. Naropa did so and gave the string back. Tilopa threw it aside and asked him what he understood. Naropa replied, “All beings are tied by worldly dharmas and we need to untie them. Once we have done so we must remain natural and rest in the mind itself, without being artificial. We have to get rid of all our expectations, hopes and fears.” Eleven such signs or symbols constituted each of the first three initiations Naropa received. Tilopa never told Naropa if he had answered correctly or not, he just left each answer as it was. Later, Tilopa began to smile and laugh. Then he said to Naropa, “You know, it is exactly as prophesised by the dakinis, you understood everything in the right way.”
But Naropa’s trials were still to come. He had to endure twelve major hardships in order to overcome all obstacles on his path to obtaining Mahamudra.
When Naropa asked for the initiation in Maha Mudra one day, Tilopa looked at him in a special way and left. Naropa followed him. They went to a temple with many levels – when they reached the top, Tilopa sat down resting his back against the wall. He said, “If I had a devoted student he would jump from the wall.” Immediately, Naropa jumped, breaking all his bones as he landed. As he lay dying, he thought he would not reach enlightenment this life after all, and began praying that he would again meet Tilopa in his next life. As he was praying, Tilopa appeared next to him and by his touch, healed Naropa’s body completely. Tilopa said, “You must understand that the idea that things exist is false, and the idea that things do not exist is also false. You should focus on the continuity of consciousness to see beyond illusion.” Naropa meditated on this for one year, and then Tilopa appeared and asked him if he was ready to ask for more instructions. Immediately Naropa offered Tilopa a mandala and asked for instructions. Again Tilopa walked away and Naropa followed him. They came to a field in which a great fire burned. Tilopa went to the fire and said, “If only I had a student who was really devoted he would jump in the fire.” Naropa immediately jumped into the fire with no hesitation, and stayed there though he was burning alive. Tilopa asked him what was happening to him. Naropa answered, “My body is burning and my mind is suffering.” “Well, it burns your ego, and your attachments – and I have the practice and instruction on the equality of the elements.” He touched Naropa’s skin and healed him completely, and the fire disappeared. Tilopa instructed Naropa to realise there is no difference between pleasure or misery, health or sickness.
Naropa underwent another nine tests involving being beaten half to death on several occasions, nearly drowning in ice cold water, being pierced by ten pieces of hardened bamboo. Each time he was healed by the touch of Tilopa. He also married a woman to learn about erotic practices, before his wife was taken away by Tilopa.
Because of the rigid concepts Naropa had formed in his education, looking for answers in logic and clear definitions, he had to go through twelve stages of extremely difficult and challenging experiences that broke all his mental concepts and limited sense of self.
It took immense devotion, aspiration and faith for Naropa to embrace the hardships requested of him, but he stayed true to the feeling in his heart upon first hearing the name Tilopa, and he never gave up.
After twelve years of hardship and intense practice Naropa’s faith paid off. One day Tilopa and Naropa went to the river together and Naropa asked for more instructions. He had come to the last instruction. Tilopa took off his shoe and slapped Naropa on his forehead. At that moment the last veils dissolved from Naropa’s mind, and he realised his true nature. He had accomplished Maha Mudra.
It is said that it was because of Naropa’s ability to follow Tilopa without any doubts, that he was able to reach full realisation within one lifetime.
Naropa gave the world the six yogas or the six dharmas – “oral instruction transmission for achieving liberation in the bardo” – including tummo and phowa. Among his disciples was Marpa who became the master of Milarepa, passing on his teachings to the present day.
The sacred relationship between a disciple and their spiritual guide is fascinating and life-changing. Ancient scriptures are full of references to the importance of seeking and accepting a spiritual guide. These days however, it is often seen as a strange concept as people are not familiar with its spiritual value.
Here are two short stories of spiritual guide-disciple relationships to help inspire and provoke curiosity. In each story we can see how the guide’s initiation was essential for the spiritual evolution of the disciple. The path by which each disciple grew however, differed greatly.
The relationship between Attar and Hazif
We will begin with the story of Hafiz in a town called Shiraz in Persia in the 14th century, at a time when the Sufis were not well accepted. As a teenager, Hafiz was a very poor baker’s boy, and he fell very much in love. He was completely infatuated, but she was the daughter of one of the richest families in the village. Hafiz knew he had little chance of being with his love.
But there was hope. Hafiz had heard talk of a saint’s tomb that had mysterious powers. It was said that if a person prays outside the tomb every night for forty nights and does not sleep, any wish will be granted. So, full of hope and determination, Hafiz went to the tomb.
Even after all this time, the sun never says to the Earth – “you owe me”.Hafiz
Look what happens with a love like that – it lights the whole sky.
Every night he stayed in prayer at the tomb of the saint, and during the day he continued his work at the bakery. Finally, after 40 nights, on the last night, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Hafiz as a messenger of God. He told Hafiz that he will grant him that which he wishes, because of his abnegation.
Overwhelmed by the presence of the angel, Hafiz realised that stronger than his love for the woman, was his love for God; and he now wished only to be shown a teacher. Archangel Gabriel disappeared, telling Hafiz that he will soon discover that which he desired.
“…stronger than his love for the woman, was his love for God”
Only a few days later, Hafiz had a vision in which he was told to visit the local pharmacist, Attar. When he arrived, Hafiz discovered that Attar was not a pharmacist at all, but hidden through a door at the back of the shop, there was a Sufi place of study.
Hafiz decided to begin his spiritual practice under the guidance of Attar. The practice he was given was to compose at least one song for God, every day. As we know, Hafiz wrote a great deal of very inspiring songs!
It was not easy – as Hafiz also married and had children, but he succeeded, even becoming a well-known poet. In the Arabic world, poetry is highly regarded and so he was able to bring the mystical knowledge of Sufism to the general public by encrypting it into their day-to-day poetry.
After forty years, Hafiz began to long for something more, and he knew there was more. He asked Attar for liberation, for realisation, but Attar would not give him any other practice, only telling him, “All disciples will reach realisation in good time…”.
“He asked Attar for liberation, for realisation, but Attar would not give him any other practice..”
So Hafiz realised that he had to again practise great austerities for forty days and forty nights to be granted his wish. This time he drew a circle on the ground, and did not leave the circle for the entire period. But at the end of this practice, nothing happened.
Distraught, Hafiz went to the house of Attar and as soon as he arrived, Attar opened the door, holding a chalice of wine. He took a sip, and invited Hafiz to do the same. And that was the moment of the illumination of Hafiz. Attar gave to Hafiz from his cup. This chalice symbolised the infinite source of God’s Grace with which Attar was constantly infused, and of which Hafiz was finally ready to receive.
This romantic story has many levels. It demonstrates how the master knows the steps of his or her disciples, and how as they come closer to their full realisation, he will support them through their final test, sometimes known as the dark night of the soul. Only after passing this test can the disciple pierce through the levels of spiritual consciousness to illumination.
Sri Ma Anandamayi and Bolanath
The next example we will look at is Sri Ma Anandamayi and one of her main disciples – and her husband – Bolanath. Bolanath was not a disciple of Sri Ma from the beginning of their marital life. In fact, he and the rest of the family were often concerned for Nirmala, as she was then called, because of her strange behaviour.
From a young age Nirmala displayed extraordinary spiritual powers. She did not cry when she was born, and she would frequently enter into deep trances of Samadhi , especially when hearing devotional Kirtan songs, and she would perform complex spiritual practices that she had never been taught.
They called upon doctors and pundits, who assured the family that she was neither sick nor mentally unstable, but that she was Perfect, and infused with God.
When people began to realise that God was incarnate in Nirmala, many would come to her. In her presence they would heal from diseases, enter spiritual ecstasy, and receive answers to their questions.
Sri Anandamayi Ma was extremely generous and kind with those who were open, even inflicting wounds on her own body in order to take away the suffering and sickness of others. She was also extremely strict with those who came to her with selfish motives, setting them back on the right path.
After witnessing so many miraculous things in her presence, and even entering into Samadhi when she touched him on the forehead, Bolanath gradually began to realise that his wife was a true master. Curious, he asked her if it was possible for her to eat many chillies without getting even a tear in her eye. To satisfy his curiosity she ate a huge number of chillies, which had absolutely no effect on her. Bolanath was amazed but soon became extremely sick with a severe fever.
When it seemed impossible that he would recover, Sri Ma came to his bedside and caressed his head, saying ‘Never ever test this body again’, and healed. The fever was not a punishment from her, but a natural consequence of harming someone so pure.
One day, Bolanath finally asked Sri Ma to give him a mantra initiation, after which he became a great practitioner and disciple of hers. Towards the end of his life, Bolanath travelled to the Himalayas for intense spiritual practice, and he himself eventually gained enlightenment.
This fascinating relationship reframes the common conception of marriage. Sri Anandamayi Ma and Bolanath were devoted to the Divine within one another, walking together on their journey towards spiritual perfection. Sri Ma was his loyal wife on one hand, and spiritual guide on the other. And although it was difficult for Bolanath at the beginning of their life together, her perfect example awoke something in him that led him to seek Truth for himself.
These were two extraordinary examples of spiritual guide-disciple relationships. If you would like to learn more, have a look at the rest in our series on this fascinating topic.