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Building the "Cup": Sadhana

A word in Sanskrit that describes spiritual practices is the word sadhana, which literally translates to "the way of attainment". This word is used by yogis to denote the set of methods, tools and techniques that, when applied, lead the sadhaka (spiritual practitioner) to the goal of attainment. We must remember that spiritual practice is not exactly meant to bring us experiences of relaxation, joy and harmony, although these are byproducts of a practice done well; rather sadhana is, by design, meant to strip away all that is obstructing the Universal Principle from shining through us. This is what is meant by "attainment". The fruit of this work, when aligned with the right View, or the goal of practice, awards us with the greatest of all results -- living an individual life that is harmonious with the Universal Life of All. Attainment, then, is less about a subjective experience and more about achieving something that could be described as a state of being. This "state of being" is illustrated through various mystical accounts and recorded throughout history by a variety of saints and sages across the ages. The unique thing about this is that what we are talking about here is not exclusive to yogis or people who otherwise understand this word "sadhana" ; the ultimate fruit of all the paths of spirituality is a final state of awareness within the individual whereby they realize and experience directly their connection to the One Divine Source of All Creation. This is a non-conceptual dimension of consciousness. Labels no longer exist here. The capital-T Teaching embedded as a sort of secret code within all the paths becomes apparent like the shining Sun and the unconditional unity of all things dawns in the practitioner as an almost comical realization, for comparison, judgment, mental analysis completely fall away to be purified by its Holy Fire. This is what the yogis talked about and emphasized, for the yogis were the ones who craved true freedom in this lifetime. They were not so interested in the morality or ethics of the situation; they didn't care much for the activities of others. The yogis were, and are, one-pointed in their quest for this Attainment, for without it, the dogmas of other paths and ways became crippling obstructions on the One Path of Self-Realization. As they say "only God matters". This essay will be an exposition into the nature of this word sadhana and how it fits into our personal narratives as we make this journey ourselves. As well, we will explore the concept of "building the cup", which is a description of what it takes to handle the ever-increasing voltage of Divine Energy that wants to pour into us each and every moment of every day. The real question is -- are we capable of actually handling the Truth? Or do we allow our personalities and egos to get in the way of the inpouring and outpouring of divinity that animates our existence? What even is this "Divine Energy" I speak of? Concepts and labels are poor attempts to illustrate the truth of the situation, but can serve as pointers to those who are walking the Path....

I believe it is helpful to think about this situation from an evolutionary standpoint. We are, after all, a product of millions-of-years of evolutionary success. The body you and I sit in to interact with our reality is an evolutionary miracle. Our DNA and genetic material has evolved across countless generations, interacting with mineral life, plant life, and animal life to produce the human organism that is transporting our soul today. Our body is literally the house for the Spirit to come into the world of form. For those who are following my supposition, light is pouring into us from above and animating our existence. The spark of life that entered us at birth will keep our heart beating until our last breath, and when we finally expire, that spark will return itself to the cosmic heartbeat for, perhaps, an eventual return into the world of form for another merry-go-round of karma and soul-lessons. The Eastern philosophy and metaphysical understanding of soul transmigration and the Law of Karma helps us understand the eternal nature of Consciousness and the principles that keep us bound to return to this Earthly plane. Western scientists may argue that consciousness sprung out of the inertness of matter -- that matter itself evolved to a point of complexity & sophistication that consciousness suddenly emerged onto the scene. Eastern mysticism has a different idea: consciousness is fundamental, and out of it sprung forth matter in ever-increasingly complexity. The metaphysical science of Samkhya helps us understand this: from the One Divine Source -- light, consciousness, energy -- there is a "descent" and gradual fractalization of the One, which split Itself to become Two, and thereby created the duality between Awareness Itself and Awareness OF. Another way to look at this is the simple analogy between the Art and the Artist. The Consciousness, and then the contents of consciousness. This is as they say in the scriptures, there cannot be Shiva without Shakti. What is essential to reflect on here is that the world of form appears precisely because there is an observer. This is in alignment with what our Quantum Physicists theorize.

In other words, there would be no art without an artist. There would be no Creation without a Creator. If we reflect curiously about these things and contemplate with an open mind, with the mind of a mystic, we may start to follow the rabbit down towards the Source...

When it comes to spiritual practice, one of the first things we will want to do is identify what exactly we are tying to "do" with our practice. Well, what is it? What are we trying to do, really? Do we want more peace, happiness, relaxation, joy? Less misery and suffering? All this is fine and well, and a perfectly suitable place to start practice. After all, these are byproducts of a path well-walked, are they not? But what is the end-goal? What is the final result? What is that thing that all mystics were pointing to in their revelatory teachings?

Alignment with the View of practice is one of the key points that allows to turn our practice into sadhana. Our process of development eases along a gradual curve of personal understanding and the accumulation of wisdom. Slowly, as the mystical and mysterious world of magic opens up to us, the way in which we walk changes. We are no longer so much interested in the worldly results of our spiritual practice, but the juiciness of authentic spirituality becomes a lot more worth our squeezing. Although we welcome the deliciousness of the peace, joy, and happiness that arrives through our devotion, they only serve to increase our level of devotion to the One. They are not an end in themselves. Nor is any other "result" of us walking the path.

This may be hard to wrap our heads around, initially, but we can get a sense for it when we tune in and feel. The idea is that as the fruit is attained -- and there seem to be gradual levels of attainment -- these results only serve to clarify what it is we are actually after in this life. The desires that we have, which usually emerge from some egoic notion that we need to get something or do something, are sublimated into a sort of "higher" desire. A desire that is transcendent to the motivations of the world. Interestingly, as we point our energy in this direction and our focus and concentration towards this singular desire becomes laser-like, all the other "desires" we have or had start to transform themselves. They don't go away, but they are replaced and transmuted into a more refined substance. We start to walk a cleaner path, one that is less driven by the whirlwind of karmas and the vrttis of our conditioning and more driven by the evolutionary impulse within us. This is what it means to heal. The past has less of a grip on us and instead we are more responsive and creative with the Moment itself. The yogis talked about this and said that this is moksha. In Tantra, the idea was to free oneself from the grip of the world while still living in it. This was the goal -- to be able to actually enjoy life but to remain aloof from it. Sounds fun, right? After all, one of the highest teachings from these traditions is the tradition of lila. Play. The answer behind the age-old question: "why was any of this created in the first place?" That's right. PLAY!

But we can't actually play if we are bound by our karmas. We are stuck on repeat, doing our best to manage the incoming and outgoing waves of life and keep our head above water...

Not the sadhaka. The one who is doing sadhana.

The "building of the cup" analogy is the final piece of the puzzle in this essay. I believe that this phrase accurately and adequately describes the Tantric viewpoint that our human organism is a temple for the cosmos, and that through proper training and development the entirety of the cosmos can be "realized" within one's own being. The Tantrikas, after all, believed that the human body was a mirror for the cosmic body. That everything "out there" also exists "in here". This concept was developed further through the map of the subtle body: i.e. the chakra system and the five key elements associated therein. If Consciousness is descending into form, how is it flowing through us? How is the One Consciousness that we ALL share manifesting Itself through us? ... and if we are following this line of reasoning, we might wonder, "well what is IT trying to do through me?"

Kundalini became a dominant Tantric concept about 1000 years ago to help practitioners understand the constant surge of what we are describing here as evolutionary energy. Consciousness, as it moves through us, becomes Kundalini Shakti. She is the force that gives rise to Creation -- hence why she is depicted as the Mother. Without Her, we are inanimate. However, She is a force to be reckoned with. It is true to say that the same impulse which creates hurricanes, pushes tectonic plates together to make mountains, explodes stars, and swirls galaxies is within the very cells in your body. You possess a cosmic, nuclear energy essentially wants to Life to Become. However, as we know, in order for things to be created, other things need to be destroyed. There is a constant give-and-take happening in our Universe, and we as humans are sitting smack-dab in the middle of this exchange. No one and no-thing is exempt. The problem for us occurs when we forget about this. We can turn our blind eye to this cosmic principle, but that does not exclude us from its reality. Kundalini moves through us to fire up our movement in the world. Ancient mythologies of dragons & serpents are stories related to this. The stories of heroes slaying the monster in the underworld are depictions of the human realizing that their true potential lay buried beneath generations of conditioning and forgetfulness. In order to allow the Divine Energy that wants to pour through us into the world, our job is to reclaim that lost spark of Creation. Its embers never quite go out, they only become obstructed by the mind.

To "build a cup" means to develop a psyche that can handle the onslaught of hurricane-force winds and the pressure of the exploding star within our very own individual consciousness. This is a metaphor to help us understand just how powerful of a force we are dealing with. We are like little children playing with a 220,000 volt socket. Plug yourself into the Divine Current and beware. If your nervous system isn't building to handle what will come through, you may risk psychosis, or worse. There are many accounts of people who have gone crazy due to blowing out their subtle body. Drug addicts and rockstars are a good place to look. The use of highly powerful substances or the incredible amounts of Shakti that are produced at music concerts without an adequately prepared nervous system are a recipe for disaster. Too much of the current can split the cup, and suddenly that energy coming through cannot be contained. Now a person is in trouble. This is why the sadhakas advocated for regular, consistent, dedicated practice. Sadhana. They knew what we were working with here. This isn't some fairy tale "meditate and attain the bliss of nirvana" kind of thing. We are dealing with dragon energy, and IT is a primal, primordial force to be reckoned with. IT wants to become. In fact, it NEEDS to become, for that is IT's purpose. We would not be here were this not the case. This primal energy is the same energy that activated our ancestors to hunt sabre tooth tigers and mammoths and survive incredibly dangerous and hazardous conditions. IT is the force that motivates us to pursue our dreams and ambitions. IT is the force that activates when we are triggered. Our emotions & feelings arise FROM this Source. We must learn to work with IT, or we will experience the tremendous pressure of its force from within us, moving us and sweeping us along, whether we like it or not.

This is the purpose of sadhana. To build a vessel, a "cup" that can actually hold and contain the liquid fire of the Creator so that Creation can happen through us. We are dealing with cosmic energy here. IT's not human, and we are better off not humanizing it, or trying to package it within our religious ideology. Just hold on tight to your seat, because as soon as you start to ride the Dragon, She will take you places you could not even imagine.


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