RIDING THE WISDOM TIGER
 From the beginning of time there have been those rare women and men
 who, following their hearts great yearning, have answered the
 existential question of birth and death with realization of who they
 truly are - who we all are. Pranama is such a one. He invites,
 cajoles, dares us to join the dance. Read his words, let them enter
 your heart and smash the taboo against unreasonable happiness. The
 flame of being is passed from master to disciple in the great silence
 of the heart - these words are an engraved invitation.
                                 R. F.
  "What is Tantra?"
   an interview with Tantric Master Prem Pranama
 This interview occured in the summer of 1994. The interviewer, Ralph
 Abrams, has been a spiritual seeker for the last 25 years. He has
 worked with Swami Muktananda, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Chagdud Tulku,
 Nagkpa Chogyum, Native American teachers and currently lives in the
 Crazy Cloud Hermitage where he studies the Tantric path with Pranama.
 R: The word Tantra is thrown around quite a bit in spiritual circles
 these days, and it often means very different things. I'd like to
 start off with the simple question: What is Tantra?
 P: Tantra is the hot blood of spiritual practice. It smashes the taboo
 against unreasonable happiness; a thunderbolt path, swift, joyful, and
 fierce.  There are many different types of paths. Some touch you like
 a gentle spring rain, but Tantra is the wild summer thunder storm
 churning with creation, destruction, bliss and emptiness.  Tantra is a
 wild mother tiger - if you approach her with right motivation, right
 intention, and integrity, she'll suckle you at her breast; but if you
 come to her in a sloppy way, she'll rip apart your body-mind, eat you
 for dinner, and shit out what's left.
 R: Wow!  I think that this sense of joyful abandon and the force and
 bliss you've described would make the Tantric path attractive to many
 people.  Plus the fact that it is known to be a very swift path to
 P.  Swift, yes.  But the Tantric Vajrayana path is complex and can be
 dangerous.  It requires a strong, well integrated sense of self
 prepared through careful preliminary practice. Otherwise it is
 possible for the practitioner to make gross errors in judgment.  On
 the Tantric path, it is perhaps easier to become the ultimate form of
 egohood and delusion than it is to become free. You can start off
 intending to liberate the tyranny of ordinary appearance into
 primordial awareness and end up crystallizing the ego into
 diamond-hard delusion. There is no authentic Tantra without profound
 commitment, discipline, intelligence, courage, and a sense of wild,
 foolhardy, fearless abandon.
 R: Why is that? And why foolhardy abandon?
 P: Foolhardy because the path is for gamblers.  There is a beautiful
 Rumi poem which speaks to this from the Sufi tradition.
  "Love is reckless; not reason.  Reason seeks a profit.  Love comes on
 strong, consuming herself unabashed.
 Yet in the midst of suffering love proceeds like a millstone, hard
 surfaced and straight forward.
 Having died to self interest, she risks everything and asks for
 nothing.  Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
 Without cause God gave us Being; without cause give it back again.
 Gambling yourself away is beyond any religion.
 Religion seeks grace and favor, but those who gamble these away are
 Gods favorites, for they neither put God to the test nor knock at the
                               door of gain and loss"
         (translation by Edmund Helminski)
    Tantra takes the jump into crazy wisdom by eliminating even God from
 the equation, leaving only the mystery with no ultimate attempt to
 define it. This is a path for those whose hearts are so wild that they
 are ready to throw it all away on a hunch, for an intuition.
   Discipline, courage, hard work and intelligence are required
 because that is what any quest of the heart demands.  Tantra, which
 molds the power of creation and ego into skillful means cutting
 through delusion, requires careful preparation. We don't expect
 someone who just wants to play around now and then on a keyboard to
 become a concert pianist. We don't expect someone to be able to get up
 off the couch one day and run a four minute mile. Great tasks require
 great effort.
    With Tantra we are taking the mind and body as cauldron, feeling,
 ego, elements and world as alchemical ingredients, and imagination
 informed by divine power as catalyst; and we are accomplishing the
 great magical task of alchemical transformation. The base metal of
 dualistic view becomes the infinitely valuable gold of pure and
 luminous awareness. Tantra is a path of tremendous power. This power
 is not easy to use without getting burned by it. Yet, at the same
 time, it is a path of great joy.
    If you're going to use poison, pleasure, and personality as the
 path, you have to be careful not to auto-destruct. In working with an
 advanced sadhana (practice) such as Vajrakilaya, which is central to
 our lineage, powerful energies of psyche, nature, and the subtle
 realms are harnessed. When such a powerful sadhana is introduced into
 one's system through authentic empowerment, it is not something to be
 taken lightly. Let's say you re going to bring anger into the
 path. It's a razor's edge between liberating anger into the wrathful
 compassion of mirror like wisdom and just becoming an arrogant,
 self-righteous prig. With Vajrakilaya, either you are actually
 transforming your mind stream into this wisdom-being of great wrath
 and power, or you are just dressing up your egoistic anger in the
 deitie's clothes. If Tantra is misused, the divine becomes a demon.
    When you work with the Tantric path, you are playing with a live
 wire. It s charged not with electricity, but with the power behind
 creative force. Tantric sadhana deconstructs and constructs reality,
 as play, until the essence of reality becomes obvious.  Through the
 sadhanas, private non-realities interface with the public non-reality
 until you realize the true nature of both. You use illusion to cut
 through illusion.
 R.  I am not sure I understand what you mean by public and private
 non-realities. Are the images, energies, and beings worked with in the
 practices real or not? Could you elaborate on that bit?
 P.  The basis of all this lies in an understanding of Dharmakaya and
 sunyata, "the realm of essence" and "emptiness". The Dharmakaya is not
 a place or even a state of being or consciousness. Dharmakaya is the
 field of pure potential, which is exploding into actualized energy and
 matter at every moment. Each object or thing, even in its "thingness",
 is still in essence characterized by this field of potentiality. In
 other words, each "thing" is empty of permanent characteristics; its
 characteristics share the quality of pure dynamic potentiality and are
 always tending towards the expression of that potential via constant
 change and transformation.
    All worlds and fields of perception explode from this pure
 potentiality, which is also pure awareness or emptiness. This essence,
 this emptiness, is unspeakable and is not any thing at all. And yet it
 is the dynamic matrix from which all of this (waving his arm about the
 room) arises, and of which all of this is a presentation, and into
 which all this returns.
    This explosion of essence creates fields of energetic
 perception. This energy is conditioned into forms by the play of cause
 and effect. These forms are our world and our self. The world, and all
 worlds, are coincident with the essence of awareness, which is
 birthless and deathless and utterly free of the implications of form
 and limit. The manifest world is not other than essence, but essence
 is not limited to the shape or conditions of the manifest worlds. One
 might say that the world and all worlds are held together as form by
 the conditioned and habitual intent of consciousness. Our particular
 world is held together by the intent of human beings. The worlds of
 other beings are held by the force of their conditioned intent.
    The structures of existence are not "real" in any ultimate
 sense. They are public non-realities, playful dreams shaped out of
 essence and molded in form. They are the radiance of pure
 potentiality, momentarily given shape by intent and held in a
 seemingly cohesive pattern by karma or patterned habitualized
 consciousness. A Tantric yogi shatters the tyranny of ordinary
 appearance - the forgetting of how things took on their seemingly real
 forms - by molding new structures of existence - private
    We are not talking here about "creative visualization" in the sense
 generally used. Imagination is, generally, simply mind forms within
 the public non-reality. We are talking about the actual deconstruction
 of the building blocks of reality and reconstruction of
 alternatives. Both public and private non-realities are conditioned
 forms of consciousness. By enacting the process of creation and
 destruction in the private non-reality the unquestioned authortiy and
 permanence of the public non-reality is undermined. Through the
 process of advanced Tantric sadhana one is able to recognize the
 ground of intrinsic awareness within all conditioned forms. This
 realization allows one to live as intrinsic awareness and recognize
 all arising as ornaments of that awareness.
    The idea of Tantra is not identification with endless new
 conditioned forms of awareness and color.  The point is to slip
 between the cracks into the matrix of pure potentiality itself. The
 goal is not achievement of unusual states it is to recognize your
 primordial intrinsic nature in all appearence. Then all appearance has
 the single taste of bliss and wisdom. That's not the end either it's
 the beginning of endless play.
 R.  That goes quite a bit beyond the general view of Tantra as merely
 a way of advanced self-help rather than a profoundly magical or
 transcendental practice. But isn't it also true that Tantra (in this
 radical form) works with the ordinary emotions and everyday problems?
 P.  There are no ordinary emotions and everyday problems. That's the
 point.  Being is the natural luminous quality of this matrix of pure
 potential and Being presents itself in the play of existence. The
 bliss-mad radiance of pure awareness plays in the colors of Being. The
 world and your own body, your mind and your energies are nothing other
 than the natural communicative thrust of limitlessness.  There is
 absolutely nothing ordinary about anything.
    When the colors of Being are read through the distortions of
 dualistic view, they appear as emotions and confusion, and one is
 bound in the tyranny of ordinary appearance.  Being freed from
 distorted view plays as feeling and clarity in the wild and raucous
 romp of manifestation. When the true nature of every event is
 recognized, even the most seemingly mundane moment will hold such
 great beauty that it will shatter the mind.
    Tantra's power lies in its ability to recognize the poisons of ego
 as distortions of the qualities of enlightenment.  The practices
 transform these distortions or, depending on one's capacity,
 spontaneously liberate dualistic distorted view into its own true
 nature. For Tantra the stuff of body, emotion and mind, ordinary
 emotions and events are the essential ingredients needed for the
 alchemical transformation of distorted view into Buddhahood.
 R.  You mention Being's appearance as a play of colors, and that
 intrigues me. So often Being is described as clear light or white
 light. Non-dual realization seems to be a one dimensional and one
 flavor thing, whereas this seems to have depth.
 P.  Light broken open by a prism displays the colors that are always
 its nature. Its essence is clear light and its nature is to manifest
 as the colors of the rainbow. Pure awareness is completely transparent
 like a sheet of glass. But when broken open, it displays the rainbow
 of colors or flavors that are the substance of manifestation. Pure
 awareness and the colors of Being are not in opposition or even in any
 way two. They are aspects of singleness. So many spiritual paths
 inherently, though often subtly, negate world, body, and
 existence. They are always seeking to get elsewhere into the "light"
 failing to recognize that all is light.
    Spiritual systems often misinterpret bondage as resulting from
 being in form rather than from wrong view. Because of this, they
 wrongly assume that enlightenment means to be abstracted out of form
 into subtle realms or "pure" awareness. These spiritual systems try to
 negate form and dissolve, or return, into the pre-form matrix of pure
 potentiality. This is possible and that radical act of transcending
 form is most blissful - but it is not enlightenment. Form and formless
 are not two; they are a single mystery. These systems are
 spiritualized forms of the dualistic delusion. Tantra, which in its
 true form is Advaitic (or non-dual), transcends this
 limitation. Tantra is wisdom gone wild embracing the totality of what
    With Tantra you are not getting somewhere; you are just waking up
 to the true nature of things as they are. The colors inherent in clear
 light are not other than the light. The display whereby Being presents
 its limitless mystery is not other than the birthless and deathless
 pure mystery from which Being comes..
 R.  It's interesting that you mention Advaita. I recently read
 Poonjaji, an Advaitic master. He advocates no practice. Form is
 illusion and every action by the illusory self adds to
 unenlightenment. What do you think of that.
 P: Well, I have great respect for the traditional forms of Advaita. I
 have always been intimately connected with Ramana Maharshi, and the
 path that I teach is "Advaitic Tantrayana". On the other hand, there are
 some serious problems and limitations with the talking school of
 Advaita versus the various practice schools such as Tantra.
 R: What do you mean by "talking school"?
 P: Talking schools are those that understand that delusion is only an
 illusion and all that you need to do is understand the illusion to be
 free of it. Because all you need to do is understand, then all I need
 to do as master is explain the truth to you, and all you need to do is
 listen and you will "get it". The problem is that this is a superficial
 grasp of understanding. Understanding in the talking school is
 considered a primarily mental act. I talk; you listen. In truth
 understanding is a whole body act. You must understand with the cells
 of your body, your mind and your feelings. Listening involves a
 profound action of the entire self. This action is what practice
 is. Spiritual practice is the act of listening to the teaching with
 the whole body.
    There are fundamental differences between a teacher, even an
 awakened one, and a master. Poonjaji is a teacher. He speaks about
 Truth very nicely, though he suffers a bit from the delusion of
 viewing form as illusion rather than presentation of the formless. Due
 to this he lacks the skillful means needed to deal with the actual
 roots of delusion. He lacks the skillful means to communicate with the
 whole bodily being rather just the mind. In a recent interview he said
 that he teaches the pure Truth - some get it, some don't, and he doesn t
 know why.  That's the difference between a teacher and a master: A
 master knows why and can deal skillfully with the causes.  A master is
 willing to deal with delusion on its own ground if necessary.  He or
 she is willing to take on the dragon in its cave, even if the dragon
 is only an illusion.
    The teachers of the endless talk no practice school go on to say
 "open your eyes and see the beautiful sunset. You do not need to do
 anything, add anything to yourself. Just open your eyes". While it is
 true that you don't need to add anything, the problem is that your
 eyes are shut and you are wearing a blindfold. You open your eyes and
 see nothing. These teachers do not see you because they are too busy
 admiring their own "non-dualism".
    The teachers of the Advaita talking school do in fact give
 practices. They give the very difficult practice of pre-verbal inquiry
 which works once you have taken off your blindfold. But until then it
 leaves you stranded. All too often people make sense of the words and
 develop conceptual enlightenment. You understand the description of
 the sunset so well that you think you are seeing it, even though you
 are still wearing a blindfold and have your eyes closed. People in
 this condition even go on to become teachers of the talking school,
 endlessly describing the imagined sunset to others. I am sure that it
 is based on my Tantric predilection for wisdom gone wild, my delight
 in manifestation, but I often find these Advaitic teachers a little
 prissy. They are unable to enjoy the game, unable to enjoy the madness
 and wildness of existence. There is no space for non-dual dualism in
 their non-dualism.
 R: That clears up some confusion about Advaita which I hadn't quite
 been able to put into words.  You mentioned Ramana Maharshi. As I
 understand it your path was not originally Tantric.  I would be
 interested in hearing about how you evolved into this style of
 practice and teaching. What led you to awakening and to teaching the
 way that you do?
 P: My introduction and initiation into the world of Tantra began with
 a naked menstruating woman in the University of Michigan's graduate
 school library. She danced and sang and placed her bleeding cunt over
 my mouth and I drank from that source the nectar of immortality, the
 liquid union of bliss and emptiness.  She was the Vajra Dakini Yeshe
 Tso-gyal, Mother of my true life. But that is the end of the story and
 was not planned, asked for, or expected. For most of my spiritual
 journey I had nothing to do with Tantra nor wanted to.
    My own spiritual work began in the Gurdjieff system. Gurdjieff was
 influenced by Tantric teachings though more strongly influenced by the
 Sufi schools. In his system I found a concrete practical method for
 working with the habitual conditioning of my body, mind, and
 emotions. I got to see myself without any veneer.  It was in this
 school that I began to truly crystallize the wish to grow and forge it
 into a center of gravity that could begin to pull the unintegrated
 parts of the self into a unified whole.
    After some time I began to find that certain axioms on which the
 work depended were, for me, limited in their view. Given the lack of
 anyone I considered a true Master, I resumed my search for a system
 that could take me farther. I visited many different teachers and
 communities, read enormous amounts, and engaged in a variety of rather
 extreme experiments on myself. Eventually I encountered the work of
 the enigmatic and rascally Master Osho.  My meeting with Osho, who was
 called Bhagwan at that time, awakened my heart into intense ecstasy
 and devotion. It also began a long period of powerful visionary
 experiences that centered on the Virgin Mary and the Goddess Kali.
    For me devotion was an instant and natural though hard path often
 filled with confusion.  My heart exploded in love. The Guru is the
 trigger. The Guru is the object that the devotee uses as an excuse to
 slip through the boundaries of ordinary feeling. I learned, in a trial
 by fire, that irresponsible devotion to the master always ends in
 serious suffering. In other words the Guru ain t your daddy, the Guru
 is an introduction to your own nature. What is most important is that
 I did learn, and over time the love that Bhagwan awoke in me matured
 into non-dual inquiry.
    One day all the energy that had been pouring outward in love for
 five years simply stopped and began to move inward.  This process was
 fundamentally Ramana Maharshi's question "Who am I"?.  Who is the one
 who experiences all experience?  This process cuts through all
 hierarchy of "higher" or "lower" experience by cutting to the root of
 all experience. Each time I sat down it was like a vortex of energy
 moving into expanding fields of silence.  I would feel this vortex and
 rest in it. It would draw me into deeper and deeper states of silence
 from where I would engage pre-verbal inquiry. What had been ecstasy
 and love before was now recognized as a womb-like place of silence.
    When I started the meditative phase of my practice, all the visions
 stopped short. Previously they were explosions of love, and they kind
 of rode on the outflowing energy of devotion, my interest in them
 fueling their appearance.  Very late in the silent phase of practice,
 several months before my own awakening, a new series of visionary
 experiences began. Visions of Yeshe Tso-gyal, Queen of the Lake of
 Awareness, Mother of Pure Pleasure. These visions exploded from the
 depths of emptiness and silence.
    One morning, after I had finished my practice, I went to the
 library to study Sufi texts.  I was reading two volumes of Rumi's
 works.  As I was walking towards the library, I had a feeling that was
 familiar from previous visionary experiences.  It was an intense
 pleasurable sensation that pushed out from the center of my body, from
 my heart, towards my skin, though this time it seemed to open forth
 from silent space. I felt giddy and drunk. I looked up and for a
 moment I could swear I saw the outline of a dancing woman standing in
 the air above the library.  She was huge!  Maybe three hundred feet
    The vision lasted for a second, and I went in and began reading on
 the nearly deserted fourth floor.  The longer I sat, the more intense
 this vibration became.  I knew this process very well, and I knew it
 would lead to a feeling of such intensity, that the ordinary world
 around me would black out. This feeling of ecstatic drunkenness gets
 stronger and stronger as if it's resonating more and more swiftly
 through the entire body.  At a certain point visionary experience
 outshines the "ordinary" world.
    I found myself in a cemetery.  A woman approached.  She was naked,
 except for some bone ornaments. She was singing and dancing a tune of
 haunting melody, which I later discovered was the mantra of her
 consort Padmasambhava: Om Ah Hung Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hung!
    I was entranced, simultaneously with ecstatic love and an absolute
 feeling of overwhelming sexual desire so strong that I was sure I
 would die from it. She danced around me and then swiftly stood
 directly in front of me placing her genitals over my face. Her vagina
 was over my mouth, there was blood flowing from it, and I drank this
 blood deeply in an unending flow.  I could feel it coursing through my
 body like liquid heat.  Suddenly the vision disappeared.  I got up and
 went home - well, actually, I think I first went and had a chocolate
 chip cookie. This began a period of what my wife and I refer to as the
 "drooling in the living room" period.  I spent close to a month, mostly
 sitting in a rocking chair in our living room unable to function
 because the force of Bliss that was flowing through my body was so
 overwhelming. I was also unable to speak about what was happening.
 R: You have a very understanding wife.
 P: Yes.  Without her I cannot imagine what would have happened to me
 during this time.  These experiences awoke in my mind and body such
 intense unending bliss and latent neurotic traces of such force that
 it was unbelievable.  Feelings of every kind of distortion, rage,
 anger, lust, grasping, aversion.  I am sad to say that I did a fair
 amount of acting out on these before any balance was restored, causing
 suffering to myself and others. Needless to say, this was a very
 trying time for our marriage.
    One of the things that happens in spiritual practice is that the
 subtle aspects of our ego, the seed essences of ego, hide within our
 own practice. If you are lucky enough, at some point the bliss force
 of the divine will force these out into the open.
    So it wasn't all just bliss.  It was an encounter with the ugliest
 sides of myself and the most beautiful. The whole picture.  The
 visions, on a daily basis, kept arising.  By and large they involved
 an experiment in mixing states of bliss with my previous practice of
 self inquiry and the feeling of silent emptiness.  Bliss wed to
 emptiness produces tremendous power and that's what was being
 introduced at this point.
 R: I can see the evolution of you path from Gurdjieff's very concrete
 self work into the devotional relationship with a master and mystical
 states and that leading into silence and inquiry. It seems kind of
 like this Tantric part was finishing you off. So did this practice
 lead to your realization?
 P: This was all going on without any conscious volition at all.  I was
 continuing Advaitic non-dual self inquiry with all the force I could:
 Who is the one experiencing this?  And if I had actually been able to
 stop these experiences I probably would have, because they were
 distracting me from inquiry as well as provoking some pretty stupid
 behavior in my ordinary life. Luckily, the power of the Dakini, the
 wisdom woman, was so much greater than my piddling efforts to prevent
 it. But as these experiences continued in the body, mind and emotions
 I continued my inquiry.
   The awakening came as a result of this practice mix.  The mind of
 bliss is capable of penetrating much more deeply into
 truth. Happiness, bliss and pleasure inspire a radical kind of
 courage. Without it no one would leap into that sky of deathlessness
 and selflessness. Without the bliss force no one would be such an
 idiot as to throw their life away on a hunch. Realization itself is
 beyond any and all experience. It is, however, not exclusive of
 experience or even rejecting of it; it is all-inclusive. After
 awakening one is restored to absolute and endless humor.
 R. So how did your teaching work begin and where did the Tantric
 transmission figure in that?
 P. Several months after Awakening, a friend of my wife's, feeling the
 difference in me, asked if I would help her with her spiritual
 practice.  I agreed, and several months later more friends of our
 family asked if I would work with them.  My teaching began very slowly
 and gradually.  In the beginning, what I taught was non-dual inquiry,
 because it seemed the most direct.  What I realized over time was that
 the practice of inquiry and also the natural practice of devotion
 toward the formless divine is ineffective in most people's lives.  It
 doesn't carry with it the skillful means to work with the obscurations
 and defilements - the gross and subtle neuroses - that prevent people
 from realizing their own nature of bliss and awareness in perfect
    The Advaitic practice that I was doing was extremely similar to the
 Dzogchen or Ati Yoga teachings of the Nyingma lineage.  It was through
 the Advaitic practices that I was able to reconnect.
    One of the most amazing things about Padmasambhava, Yeshe
 Tso-gyal's Guru, was his recognition that there were many teachings
 that would need to be re-discovered at a later time.  He and Yeshe
 Tso-gyal wrote the practices down and hid them in the elements and in
 the pure nature of awareness - in the mind stream of his
 disciples. This is the true origin of my connection to Tantra.
 Padmasambhava created what is called a Mind Mandate Seal and hid
 teachings on Tantra's skillful means like a timed-release
 capsule. When my own practice matured to the point where it was
 appropriate this force of wisdom opened.  The force, power and bliss
 of it was released also, even though I had completely forgotten this
 R: So you really didn't have any contact with Tibetan lamas, or the
 Nyingma (Padmasambhava's) lineage, yet your teaching is very much
 influenced by Tantra and you recognize Padmasambhava as your root
 Guru. Without any contact with the lineage, you're kind of a wild card
 as a teacher.
 P: (Laughing uproariously) Yeah, I am a wild card as a Tantric
 Master. But even wilder than this crazy connection with Tantra is that
 I am free. Free of birth and death, fear, anxiety, worry. Free beyond
 being and non-being. Free to do anything. And I just might - and it's
 a wonderful thing!
      A wild card like me who has awakened into and embodied the heart
 of Tantric practice is unique in terms of the trans-cultural migration
 of Tantra to the West.  Padmasambhava was a wild guy because he was
 the freedom and bliss of this mysterious reality. Those who awaken to
 their true nature are the same one - though in their own unique
 appearance. As Tantra develops in this culture, many aspects of its
 form are going to have to change.  At the same time this must be done
 in such a way as to not damage the teachings. This is a job of great
 delicacy. These changes need to be done by someone who stands outside
 the traditional lineages yet respects the heart drop of the teachings
 with extreme reverence..
    All Tantric practice originates from Pure Vision revelation.
 Tantric practices in the Buddhist form originate from the
 Sambhogakaya, or the Visionary Bliss Realm of reality. An advanced
 practitioner can receive teachings from this source though it is very
 rare. An awakened master is this realm - it is an aspect of their
    It is certainly reasonable to be skeptical, and I ask my
 students not to accept anyone's teachings on blind faith, but to test
 them in the laboratory of their own body/mind.  The faith needed to
 have a Tantric relationship to a Spiritual Master has to develop over
 a long period of time.  You can't simply jump right into it. There
 must be testing on both sides - time and deeds. I certainly am mad by
 any standard. You and I don't live in even remotely similar worlds. I
 know the universe to be my body, time itself to be my subtle form, and
 the sky of deathless awareness to be my mind.  My interest now is to
 spark this awakening in others, not to have them fixate on me. That
 would only destroy their growth and in the long or short run cause
 them to hate me. We all hate what we are dependent on - no one likes
 to be a slave.
    You should take a little time before hopping into the Dharma bed
 because once in it there really is no such thing as safe sex. Think
 about it as carefully as you would a marriage partner. It can take
    There is a safety catch: You don't receive advanced
 Tantric practices in the beginning anyway.  You begin with the
 pre-preliminary practices, which in our community are a series having
 to do with developing stability in body, mind and emotion at the
 ordinary psychological level.  You can use the traditional meditations
 on loving kindness, and exchanging oneself for others. These styles of
 meditation work very deeply.  At the same time, I might suggest that
 somebody seek out therapy, or work in a Twelve Step program.
    If you are obsessed with anxiety, fear, worry, comparison,
 shame, self doubt, body doubt, sex doubt, then those things become
 your center of gravity.  The constant effort to compensate for the
 pain of neurosis saps you of the joy of ordinary life and the energy
 for spiritual evolution. In this state of being, people try to replace
 the work neededto develop an authentic center of gravity with the
 Master or God - as if some external could be it for you. This must be
    Next there are the extraordinary Tantric preliminaries involving
 Prostrations, Vajrasattva practice, Mandala practice and Guru
 Yoga. These are fairly traditional. This is not an assembly line to
 enlightenment. Each person s path is unique and possibly very
 different from this description. There are people in our community who
 never work with the Tantric path at all, who work along other
 lines. The extraordinary preliminaries however are profound
 psycho-transformational methods weaving together body, emotion, energy
 and mind to awaken latent potential.
    During this phase and after the preliminaries are finished students
 begin to work with the energies of diety yoga and the radical
 practices of Advaita and Mahasanti.  Another way I work with my
 students is to send them to the best of the living masters from the
 traditional lineages.  This broadens their view and them to test my
 teaching, my style of teaching, and the authenticity of my
 transmission in the context of those who are commonly acknowledged to
 be Tantric Masters. Three wonderful Masters I send my disciples to are
 Chagdud Tulku, Lama Tharchin, and Nkgapa Chogyam.
 R: It doesn't sound like you're shy about letting your students go out
 and experience other Masters.
 P: Absolutely not!
 R. That seems a bit unusual. Most people have a great fear of Gurus
 entrapping them in dependency relationships. Sending disciples to
 other masters seems like it would help cut through that.
 P. It is necessary for two reasons.  One is that it cross-pollinates
 the lineage.  This is one of the beautiful things about Tantra.  You
 need the foundation of more than one master.  You need to receive the
 special energies of transmission and empowerment from a variety of
 skillful masters.  This cross-pollinates, just like in gardening; it
 creates a stronger plant. There is one Guru in your heart and many in
 the world. It is up to each person to figure out who their heart
 connection is with.
    The other reason is, I am a wild card as far as Tantric teachings
 go. I claim the authority to teach Tantra based on my own radical
 awakening into non-dual awareness and my own Mind Mandate Transmission
 from Padmasambhava. Such claims could easily be made by any idiot -
 and often are. I want my students and disciples to have a strong
 ground on which they can evaluate me and decide where our connection
 will go. I would like my students who do Tantric practice to be able
 to work with other masters so that they can come to a greater degree
 of understanding of my work when evaluated in the context of the
 traditional tantric practice.
 R: It seems to me that there is a lot of information and books written
 about sexual Tantra, and certainly more people are interested in that
 than in other forms of Tantra. Perhaps they are seeking this bliss
 courage that you mentioned earlier.  Do you think that people
 practicing sex yoga are by and large serious Tantric practitioners?
 P: Well, there's no point in judging other peoples' spiritual paths.
 If your path is not authentic over time that becomes clear.
 Traditionally, the use of sexuality in Tantra comes at a very
 developed stage of the path. There is no sexual Tantra if one has not
 transcended desire. Certainly a lot of people are trying to explore
 and play with sexual energy, and that is great, and they are relating
 it to the word Tantra because Tantra uses sexuality as part of the
 path.  We live in a seemingly open and permissive culture that
 actually is very uptight, prudish and provincial.  We hype neurotic
 sense stimulation in order to sell everything from shampoo to
 cars. Underneath, there is fear of everything genital.
    Tantra, however, is not about sexuality. It is about enlightenment.
 Compared to the bliss force of your true nature, the pleasure of
 orgasm is pretty puny. The teachings can be used to bring a certain
 degree of ordinary balance to the psyche, including openness about
 sexuality. That's a very good thing but let's not stop at the doorway!
 R: Enjoying Tantra for the psychological help is good but no
 substitute for radical absolute spiritual liberation.
 P: Right.
 R: You emphasize community and that is very interesting to me. I find
 that many people these days want their practice to be a personal and
 private part of their life. Relationships are hard and spiritual
 practice is hard mixing the two seems like it could ease up the
 process or complicate it.
 P: For spiritual practice, community is of vital importance in our
 culture. In traditional cultures the shock that broke one out of
 complacent patterns came from moving out of a community that had been
 the center of one s life.  In our culture, we have just the opposite
 senario. The shock here is brought about when people move into
 community from the isolated lives that our culture creates. This was
 central to the Gurdjieff system and very powerful.
 R: That sense of isolation we have as a culture is very sad.
 P: It is very sad - heartbreaking!  As you grow and mature in sadhana
 you need to test your growth in daily life, in job, in relationship,
 and in the community of other practitioners. There are of course
 exceptions to this, people who need solitude for their practice to
 grow strong, and there are practices which require prolonged solitude
 for accomplishment.  Right now I am discussing with the community the
 formation of a Hermitage center for long term intensive retreats.
 This is very important if we re going to actually manifest the higher
 levels of practice and destroy the tyranny of ordinary appearance.
    We must be careful that the higher and highest levels of Tantric
 practice do get transmitted. The loss of these great methods is a real
 danger.  There is a danger to the traditional forms of Tantra because
 the cultures of Tantric practice are being decimated by war or
 westernization, the cult of scientism. I think in our culture there is
 a different threat: That the deeper levels of practice will not be
 reached to begin with. In our culture the threat is that Tantra will
 be stillborn. Practitioners will have to break through the cult of
 TV. mentality and mediocrity into the dignity of their Vajra natures
 if Tantra is to take root here and flower in its fullness.
 R: There might not be enough students who have the basics down and
 then move into the deeper levels of practice.
 P: Right.  As Tantric practice takes root in our culture it is
 important that there be an understanding of the vastness of
 possibilities that Tantra offers. Waking up into the bliss-mad realm
 of the perfect union of perception and pure pleasure is really quite
 something. It is better than what people are dreaming up in the sex
    For one who is awake, the relationship to the world, to the
 elements, is completely different than for anybody else.  We have to
 be able to move into the really magical and wondrous forms of
 transformational practice where you are working not only with your own
 body/mind at its most subtle levels, but the elements themselves. That
 level of awakening needs to be realized It s power needs to be applied
 to the culture and the actual ground upon which we live. To work at
 these levels - the beginning levels and the most advanced levels,
 which bring radical awakening or enlightenment - to work with all of
 these is the real gift that Tantra brings.  The gift is that we can
 encompass the whole of our lives, from the ordinary to the most
 wondrous, in a single path.
 R: Which is quite a feat.
 P: It is!  The Tantric yogi, who can live married with children, a
 completely ordinary life, but at the same time play with the world as
 an ornament of awareness, is really something! To recognize all
 appearance as the ornament of your own wisdom nature and to live in
 the bliss-mad realm of freedom where all perception is delight: That
 is the goal of Tantra.
 R: Thank you.
 P: Remember we are talking here about your birthright. Awakening is
 your birthright. Accept your inheritance!
       For information on retreats, meditation classes
       and other programs at Crazy Cloud Hermitage:
              e-mail: info@flamingjewel.org
              phone:  (734) 741-1084
              write:  Crazy Cloud Hermitage
                      P.O. Box 8392
                      Ann Arbor, MI 48107
   Copyright 1994, Crazy Cloud Dharma Center. Permission is granted
 to freely copy and distribute this booklet in unaltered form.